Mahmut Demir, one of the participants of our Memory and Youth project, spoke with Dicle Anter, Musa Anter’s son, about the impact of the Musa Anter Memorial Fields concerning how Apê (Uncle) Musa is remembered. Many memory studies have been done for writer and journalist Musa Anter, who was murdered 30 years ago in Diyarbakır, on September 20, 1992. Expectations are that the court will drop the case at the September 21, 2022 hearing for Musa Anter’s ongoing murder case, citing the 30-year statute of limitations. Dicle Anter says they will continue to remember him even if the court declares the statute of limitations has expired and the case is dropped.
Initiatives in memory of Apê Musa include the Musa Anter Journalism Awards, the Musa Anter Monument and Musa Anter Park. His house in Mardin was also turned into a museum. Can you tell us about these projects? What is their meaning and scope?
After my father was killed, we were thinking of building a monument on the street where he was shot. At that time, the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality was run by the People’s Democracy Party (HADEP). The project was presented and an Iranian friend created the monument. Musa Anter was a sage and a walking library of great value to the Kurdish people. He had personally witnessed the bloodiest periods in the history of Kurdistan since his youth, primarily the 1940s, and he said: “I’ve been a witness for 55 years. I am the defendant. I am the plaintiff.” He was put on trial for trying to prove Turkey’s massacres of and injustices inflicted on Kurds. That’s why he said he was a defendant but also a plaintiff in relation to them, because he was telling the truth. Nevertheless, the monument to be built in his memory where he was killed was of great importance.
I’d like to mention a point that needs attention here. When a monument is built, we also need to take ownership of it. Every year, when I pass by the monument, I see paint on it and soot from fires. So, I couldn’t ever stomach it. I even told the mayor once that we should remove the monument. Musa Anter identified with plane trees, so I said we should plant a plane tree in place of the monument. People could both sit in its shade and know that it’s Musa is Anter’s plane tree. He had a plane tree in his yard, too. But my proposal was never approved. Of course, the monument did have a significant impact on remembering that street as the place where Musa Anter was assassinated.
It was really important for us to turn my father’s house into a museum. To begin with, we first had to talk about his grave. He hadn’t been buried where he wanted to be after he was killed. He had stated in his will that he wanted to be buried in his garden in Akarsu (Stilîlê), and he had prepared a place for it. But about eight or nine hours after he was killed, he was more or less abducted from the hospital and buried in the village of Zivîngê, where he was born, under the supervision of soldiers. It was a disaster for us because we heard that he’d been killed on Sunday. We were in Sweden, and we set off on Monday. We sent word that we’d take his body, but since we couldn’t find tickets on Monday, we could only get a flight to Batman on Tuesday, and when we went to Diyarbakır State Hospital from there, we couldn’t find a record of my father. There was heavy air traffic at that time and the planes were full of soldiers, so we’d gotten there late. My father was killed on Sunday and we couldn’t get to the village until Wednesday. I’d also like to add that when I first got off the plane, a reporter from Hürriyet walked up to me and asked if I was Turkish. That was his first question. I just said no, I’m Kurdish, and told him to talk to my mother.
Exactly one year later, on then Minister of Culture Fikri Sağlar’s initiative, we moved my father from where he was first buried to where he had given in his will. The soldiers didn’t allow more than three people there when we moved his body. There’s a photograph of three people carrying my father’s body. It’s is a misleading photo, though. Many people wrote at the time, even relatives, asking if this was how the great Musa Anter was going to be buried. But I was receiving condolences for three weeks. It would be disrespectful to the thousands of people who came to give their condolences to say anything misleading about this photo.
Then there was the work of preparing the grave. My wife Hêlîn made the design and my former brother-in-law Şenol Yorozlu, who’s a famous painter, prepared the inscription for the stone: Zilm ne qeder e (Cruelty is not fate). So both his daughter-in-law and son-in-law were involved in some way. I helped find the stones for the grave. Şenol Yorozlu and Hêlîn also made other contributions to the remembrance of my father. Şenol Yorozlu’s works The Trial for Musa, Sat. World and The Discovery of Musa were exhibited at the 1st and 2nd Mardin International Painting Symposium.
Art is a powerful tool for remembrance. Şenol Yorozlu produced valuable works of remembrance. With great effort, Hêlîn also created the “Apê Mûsa Sound and Space Installation” in 2011. She got hold of my father’s cassette audio recordings with help from my brother’s friend Edis Potori and created a one-hour and 45-minute recording. Later, after months of searching, we made an agreement with the Kosem Coffeehouse in Diyarbakır and the recordings of my father’s voice played there for 10 days. It was strange at first when the owner said expenses for tea and other drinks would be covered and the coffeeshop would continue with normal operations for those 10 days. But that’s how we got the sound recording in the coffeeshop.
With help from the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality, signs that read: “Apê Musa,” were hung starting from where my father was shot all along to the coffeehouse. They were removed a few days later, and we were given the reason being that we were confusing traffic. My father’s voice played for 10 days at that coffeeshop. Hêlîn and I were there for those 10 days. Those who came listened intently to my father speak—they laughed, they grieved, they thought. There were people who came back and listened for hours over and over. I said that his humor is important in the fact that people still remember him. He chatted with people who came to listen to him, discussed their problems, and told stories. Because of this, people talked about Apê Musa again for 10 days.
Then there was the state of the house. It was quite full due to the village evacuation. So, we decided to make a museum. First, I found a source for financing and some municipalities also helped. Both Bekir Kaya and Osman Baydemir were very helpful. Most of the items came from Izmir, from my brother Rahşan’s house. We also did the renovation—the house was in very bad shape. Then it opened as a museum. The result was nice, but I want it to be a museum of a different dimension because people can only visit when the people who live there are home. Someone is only there 70 or 75 days a year. Still, the existence of such a monument is important in that it’s a space for Musa Anter. Seeing the items inside has a great impact on visitors’ remembrance of him as well as their continued memory of him in the future.
What effect do you think these memory initiatives have had on people not forgetting Apê Musa?
I attribute the fact that people still remember my father to his humor. When my father would say something, he’d always say it with a joke. For example, people who listened to his speech at a rally in Batman still remember those jokes. You don’t forget what you laugh at. People always listened to my father. He also listened to people and never spoke nonsense. I’m not really saying this because he’s my father. You know—the person I’d like him to be? If you ask whom I’d like to be like, I’d want to be like my father. He was an idealist, respectful of life and he had great charisma. He was a bold, fearless person. His friend Canip Yıldırım used to say that my father had crazy courage because he used his pen to oppose the state coming at him with guns and rifles. My father was very self-confident because he knew well who he was up against. If you pay attention in his memoirs, he was also talking about Turkish elders. He was going to write more too. He wrote the first and second parts and said he’d write the sixth and seventh even.
Of course, these memorial works have a huge impact on people’s memory of my father. For example, it was a great success that the Musa Anter and Martyrs of the Free Press Awards could be launched at that time. I’d also personally come from Sweden to work on it at the time. The fact that the awards are still being given is really valuable and ensures that both Musa Anter and all the journalist killed are commemorated every year. I wish this wasn’t the case—one would hope that if only these people hadn’t been killed, there’d be no need for such an awards ceremony. People are killed and an awards ceremony is held in their memory. It’s tragic when you think about it, isn’t it?
Finally, I’d like to talk about the case. It comes from a time when there were many unknown perpetrators. Shining light on this case will help to illuminate many other cases as well. I know there have been legal difficulties, and the statute of limitations will be expiring in the near future. Can you talk about the litigation process and the difficulties you’ve faced?
As for how the case has proceeded, it first started in Diyarbakır, but it wasn’t progressing. It was really difficult to research the subject at that time. There was Fethi Gümüş—he was looking at the file. In 1996, Selim Okçuoğlu and I went and got the file and looked it over. There was only one page. Nothing else. That’s how we started. We’d gotten the case to that point. We even got the Turkish state convicted in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). It wasn’t easy at all to live in the atmosphere then. Afterward, there was a softening with the reconciliation process. Two journalists from Sabah newspaper found the shooter, Hamit Yıldırım. I always wonder how they were able to find him. It means it was known and someone sent them. I always have doubts though—how did they bring that man in, a murderer, and how’d they find him?
Abdulkadir Aygan and Miroğlu identified Hamit Yıldırım afterward, but they retracted their statements after a while. They said they didn’t know and that they shouldn’t mix up themselves in his sins. But there had been a time when Abdulkadir Aygan said he would recognize Hamit Yıldırım if he saw him. Miroğlu also came to the court and said he didn’t recognize him. It was also announced in court that Mehmet Eymür identified Miroğlu as “Tayfun.” It’s clear that Miroğlu also had a hand in all of it, because even his code name was mentioned. What’s more, Miroğlu is working with people who want to kill him. It’s interesting, isn’t it? He’s with the very people who want him dead. Doesn’t he ever wonder why they want him dead? Everyone else does. Go look into it and give an explanation—bring the assembly to their feet. Why doesn’t he ask why they want to kill him? If he doesn’t ask, what’s wrong in saying that he’s also a perpetrator of this murder?
Oddly enough, they’re trying to pin it on the PKK. But if someone who leaves the PKK commits a murder in the name of the state, it’s not the PKK committing the murder. If someone who’s switched allegiance commits a murder, it can’t be pinned on the PKK. This is a murder with a known perpetrator, so I’m not saying the murder is unsolved. The state has made statements like what Mehmet Ağar said, that everything will collapse if one brick is removed. Why is that though? What did they all do? No one questions this and no one has been able to do anything about this rhetoric for years. We still can’t get a statement. So many people were burned alive in the Sivas Massacre, so many massacres were committed in the 1990s, and the perpetrators are still walking around the streets free as a bird.
As a result, if light is shined on Musa Anter’s murder, it will also illuminate many other murders in Turkey, because all the data shows that the state planned it. We also want the people involved in this murder to be punished before they die. That’s why there are always obstacles. The statute of limitations for the case will expire in September. We’ll go to the ECtHR and the Supreme Court again, of course, but we shouldn’t forget that this statute of limitations is a crime against humanity. Neither I nor our lawyer Selim accept the validity of the statute of limitations. Not only for my father’s murder—the families in the Social Memory Platform say the same thing as well. There’s the commissioner Cevat Yurdakul, Judge Doğan Öz, Metin Altıok, Behçet Aysan, Turan Dursun, Metin Göktepe and Hasan Ocak—we’re a family. It doesn’t stop there either. There’s the Hrant Dink case. There’s İlhan Erdost—he was beaten to death. How is nobody brought to trial, what kind of justice is this? They’re all massacres. Hundreds of people don’t have to be killed for a massacre to happen. The murder of even one person is a massacre.
Tuesday, September 20, 2022