The armed conflict between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) is ongoing, having begun in 1984, and reaching its peak of violence in the 1990s. Although the truths of this bloody conflict have yet to be revealed, it is estimated that approximately 50,000 people lost their lives and around 2 million people living in Turkey's Kurdish region were subjected to forced migration. Investigations were revived with the indictments issued in the early 2000s, shortly before the limit of the statute of limitations for many unsolved murders, extrajudicial executions, and enforced disappearances in the 1990s. Over the course of 10 days in 2004, the newspaper Ülkede Özgür Gündem published confessions from Abdülkadir Aygan, a former informant living in Sweden, concerning many unsolved murders and the structure of the Gendarmerie Intelligence Organization (JİTEM). In 2009, the Diyarbakır Specially Authorized Chief Public Prosecutor's Office accepted Aygan's confessions as denunciations and reopened the investigation 17 years after the murder of Musa Anter, three years before the statute of limitations was to expire.
JİTEM is mentioned in the reports of the Unsolved Murders Investigation Commission established in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in 1995, the Susurluk Commission established in 1996, and the Prime Ministry Inspection Board reports written by Kutlu Savaş in 1996. Then, with the confession letters from İbrahim Babat (Hacı Hasan), JİTEM's activities began to be discussed more openly. Babat claimed in his confession letters that this irregular military organization, created under the control of the Turkish state, was the perpetrator of many murders along with village guards and PKK informants (TESEV, 2013). According to the research that started in light of the commissions and confessions, much information and many documents were found about the murders committed by JİTEM and its collaborators. According to data from human rights organizations, JİTEM and its collaborators are estimated to have killed between 1,900 and 7,000 civilians. Since the number of people killed and forcibly disappeared is still unknown, 7,000 civilians having been killed is not unrealistic.
Kurdish intellectual and journalist Musa Anter spent his life fighting for the recognition of Kurdish identity and against the denial of Kurds as a separate ethnic group in Turkey. Since the 1930s, Anter was imprisoned countless times on the grounds that he was involved in activities against the so-called indivisible integrity of the state and the nation by advocating Kurdishness and separatism in his writing, speeches, and organizational activities for the recognition of Kurdish identity and language. Anter was also among the founders of leading civil society organizations working on Kurdish language and culture, such as the Istanbul Kurdish Institute and the Mesopotamia Cultural Center. According to former JİTEM member Abdülkadir Aygan’s statements, Musa Anter and his nephew were the targets of an assassination plan conducted by JİTEM members on September 20, 1992, which killed Anter. In 2006, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) fined the Turkish state 26,500 euros for the violation of Anter's right to life as well as for the inadequate judicial process following the assassination.
Although a JİTEM member who confessed to his involvement in the assassination gave a detailed witness statement on how Anter was killed, following the ECtHR decision, his testimony was taken into account and the case was reopened, although nothing came of it. Hamit Yıldırım, one of the suspects believed to have been one of the assassins, was taken into custody in June of 2012. In the absence of new developments in the judicial process, all suspects would have enjoyed impunity due to the statute of limitations. The trials did resume, however, in July of 2013. After being merged with the JİTEM Main Case in 2016, the case of Ayten Öztürk, who was forcibly disappeared in 1994, was merged with the Musa Anter JİTEM Main Case at the Elazığ 1st High Criminal Court in 2019. The statute of limitations for the murder of Musa Anter was about to expire. Although both the case lawyers and the Anter family drew attention to this danger and explained that his unsolved murder had a more far-reaching implication, the court did not respond. The court also denied their repeated request to retake statements from Abdülkadir Aygan and Cemil Işık, both of whom were abroad. In addition, the court repeatedly denied the lawyers' request for the separation of Musa Anter's case from Ayten Öztürk’s case in order to avoid the expiration of the statute of limitations. The new hearing set for September 15, 2022, was postponed to September 21. Since the expiry date of the statute of limitations was September 20, the case was dropped at the hearing on September 21, 2022. At the hearing, Öztürk Türkdoğan, co-chair of the Human Rights Association and a lawyer for Musa Anter's son, Dicle Anter, reminded the court that the ECtHR ruled that the inadequacy of the investigation after the murder was a violation. Even though he raised the issue that the case should be evaluated within the scope of crimes against humanity and that no statute of limitations could be applied to such crimes, the court ruled for the enforcement of the statute of limitations.
Türkiye Ekonomik ve Sosyal Etüdler Vakfı (Kasım, 2013). Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation. Ergenekon'un Öteki Yüzü: Faili Meçhuller ve Kayıplar Ergenekon Dosyaları İncelemesi. The Other Side of Ergenekon: Unsolved Murders and Disappearances Ergenekon Files Analysis. Demokratikleşme Programı. TESEV Yayınları.
Musa Anter was killed at a time when the conflict in Turkey was at its peak and peaceful demonstrations and other actions were nearly impossible. The first initiative in his remembrance was the Musa Anter Journalism Awards, which began in 1993. The newspaper Gündem, where Musa Anter worked before he was killed, launched an annual initiative to award journalists working on human rights reporting. Another effort to keep Anter's memory alive was the commemoration ceremony held at the site where he was shot, which started in 1993 and included human rights organizations and grassroots movements. After the Kurdish movement's significant success in the municipal elections in the 2000s, a new wave of remembrance work began for Anter. In 2005, the Municipality of Yenişehir in Diyarbakır built a monument to the victims of unsolved murders dedicated it to Musa Anter in 2005. This monument was made by an Iranian sculptor, Babak Sobhi, and was placed in Seyrantepe close to where Anter was assassinated. Anter's relatives, close friends, and a large crowd attended the unveiling ceremony of the 3.5-meter-tall monument that depicts a tree trunk rising from books. The inscription on the monument reads: “Persecution Is Not Destiny!”—itself a quotation from Musa Anter. A park named after him was opened in 2007, in his birthplace of Nusaybin, Mardin. Leading figures from the Democratic Society Party (DTP) and many other people attended the opening of the park. This park is used as a place of commemoration as well as for protests and other actions. In July of 2012, a similar project was realized in the Yüksekova district of Hakkari. In September 2012, Musa Anter's house in Mardin was renovated and turned into a museum with a library where visitors could work. Not only Musa Anter's relatives but also the relatives of Hrant Dink, who was also assassinated by state forces, and Metin Altıok, who was killed in Madımak in the Sivas massacre, attended the opening of the museum. In addition, the play Araf: İki Ülke Arasında (Purgatory: Between Two Countries), directed by and starring Aydın Orak, was staged during the Musa Anter Journalism Award Ceremony of 2008. Musa Anter's life was set to film with the 2014 movie Asasız Musa (Moses Without a Staff), which was also directed by Aydın Orak. In 2020, many journalists, researchers, artists, politicians, and rights defenders celebrated Musa Anter's 100th birthday in a video prepared by his family. In addition, the names of 76 people were also published in commemoration in a book along with Apê Musa (Uncle Musa) on the occasion of Anter's 100th birthday.
Remembrance of the murder of Musa Anter, beyond him being a political symbol for Kurds, is also an important step for a democratic solution to Turkey's Kurdish issue. The works in remembrance of Musa Anter have been efforts to keep him alive in the collective memory of a significant segment of society and not to forget the fact that he was killed with impunity in Turkey. Another effect is that they show that the Anter family's suffering is shared by the democratic public, even if not by the state.
According to Abdülkadir Aygan's statements, the decision to kill Musa Anter was made by senior officials at JİTEM. At this point, though, those who made the decision are currently missing or dead, allowing those alleged to have ordered the actual execution to still benefit from the shield of impunity. Clarifying the facts behind Anter's murder also means revealing how the mechanisms behind the perpetration of many unsolved murders committed by paramilitary forces at that time operated. This case is a poignant example of how the state prevents the truth from being revealed as well as the need for remembrance efforts. Another challenge encountered was that Mahmut Alınak, who in 2008 said, "The statues of Musa Anter and Deniz Gezmiş should be built," was sentenced to 50 days in prison on charges of praising the crime and the criminal. During the annual commemorations of Musa Anter, the police tried to prevent the transfer of photos, other than those of Musa Anter, of journalists who were murdered or died in the 1990s. The Governorate of Mardin imposed a 15-day ban on events in Mardin in 2021, citing the commemoration of Musa Anter.