Family of Turkish-Armenian Soldier Murdered on Apr. 24 Offended by Nationalist Leader’s Remarks
The family of a non-Muslim Armenian private who was killed by a fellow soldier while he was serving in the Turkish military was deeply offended by remarks from Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, implying that non-Muslim individuals who fall while serving the state shouldn’t be considered martyrs, Today’s Zaman reports.
Martyrdom in Turkey is usually associated with nationalism, not necessarily with religion. Anybody who is killed, or sometimes in cases of accidental death, while performing a task considered a service to the country is considered a martyr. Families of individuals who die under such circumstances are also entitled to receive monthly benefits.
The family of Sevag Balıkçı, who was killed last April by a bullet from the rifle of a fellow private, spoke to the Radikal daily, saying Bahçeli’s words emphasizing religion as a criterion were offensive and discriminatory. “Until now, I always thought we were one as a nation. Now they have made us feel we are ‘the other’,” said Ani Balıkçı, the private’s grieving mother.
Ani Balıkçı said the military had requested documents from the family so that they can be a paid monthly survivor’s benefit for their son. “They wanted an income statement, a statement of assets, Sevag’s birth certificate and documents indicating his education. But no word has come yet. I assume they are waiting for the trial to be over,” she said, referring to the ongoing trial of the private who shot Pvt. Balıkçı.
His death, which was initially believed to be an accident, is now thought to have been a hate crime committed because of the victim’s ethnic background as a person of Armenian origin, based on later testimony from another private. His shooter might face murder charges if the possibility of an accident is ruled out.
She noted that her son died while serving in the military. “So if they consider anyone who dies while in the army a martyr, they should count my son Sevag as a martyr, too. This is what we are waiting to see.”
Pvt. Sevag Şahin Balıkçı was killed on April 24, 2011, the date the Armenian diaspora has chosen to commemorate the incidents of 1915, when hundreds of thousands of Armenians died in the Ottoman Empire during World War I. Officers and other privates in his unit, which is stationed in Batman province, testified that Balıkçı was shot accidentally while “joking around” with a close friend, Kıvanç Ağaoğlu, who allegedly fired the fatal shot. They were serving at the Kozluk Gümüşgörü gendarmerie station at the time of the incident.
However, Halil Ekşi, a private who witnessed the incident, later changed his testimony, altering the course of the trial. The next hearing is on March 29.
During a hearing at the Diyarbakır Second Air Force Command Military Court on Jan. 30, Ekşi, who served in the military at the same time as Balıkçı, revised his testimony to say: “Kıvanç pointed his rifle at Sevag and pulled the trigger. His family had asked me to testify in his favor,” implying that Ağaoğlu’s family pressured him into giving false testimony.
Despite demands made by Cem Halavurt, the Balıkçı family’s lawyer, the court has decided not to arrest Ağaoğlu.
In similar situations in the past, religion has not played a role in determining whether martyr families are entitled to monthly survivor’s benefits. Incorporating such a criterion would be a violation of Article 10 of the constitution, which states that all citizens are equal. Directive no. 439, which lays out the conditions for martyrdom status, makes no reference to religion.
Bahçeli’s words came shortly after Family and Social Policy Minister Fatma Şahin said the family of slain Armenian journalist Hrant Dink could be paid regularly as part of the payments program for martyr families.
- 23.03.2012 15:14
- 13.03.2012 17:52
- 17.02.2012 17:20
- 02.02.2012 16:22