Turkish Kurd grief: ‘They don’t even let us bury our dead’

Kurdish families are distraught that the bodies of loved ones are not being allowed home

A room is full of women looking like they have cried for hours, if not for days.

Sat on the floor leaning against each wall, they don’t say much. Instead, they wail, wipe their tears and hug each other to share the pain.

Ayse Aygun’s 18 year-old son Salih had gone across the border to Syria, to join the Kurdish YPG militants and fight against the Islamic State group (IS).

He was killed two weeks ago in a clash at the town of Sirrin.

Ayse’s family and friends try to be there for her in these difficult times.

It is more than losing a child for Ayse. The Turkish authorities will not allow her son’s body back into the country to be buried.

Salih Agyun, 18, was killed fighting the Islamic State group

“My son wasn’t fighting the Turkish army” she says. “He was fighting the IS. IS beheaded people. They killed the elderly. Why aren’t they allowing my son back? This is an insult.”

More than 4,000 people from Turkey, predominantly Kurds, have gone to fight against the IS since the assault on Kobani started late last year.

Up until recently, those killed were allowed back for their funerals. Over 200 YPG fighters have been buried in Turkey so far.

But now the bodies of 23 fighters have been stopped at the border.

Salih’s aunt Islim says they spoke to the local governor to help them bring his body into Turkey.

“He told us it was beyond him. He said there was a cabinet decree. He told us there was nothing he could do” she says.

“My son wasn’t fighting the Turkish army,” says Salih’s mother

“But we want our brother to be buried in our land. We could go visit his grave, say a prayer. He should be near us.”

Families suspect, all this is part of a measure to keep the border town of Suruc calm. Here, an attack by the group calling themselves Islamic State killed 32 people last month.

The culture centre where the bomb went off still bears the scars of the attack.

Pictures of the dead young activists, along with various toys for kids they intended to take to Kobane are laid out in the garden – at the exact spot where the attack took place.

But on the streets of Suruc life is back to normal. There are security forces present of course, but that has been part of daily life for some time, given the proximity to the Syrian border.

What happened in this predominantly Kurdish town across the border from Kobane changed Turkey and the security landscape dramatically.

The town of Suruc saw an attack by IS, which killed 32 youth activists

After the attack, the Turkish government launched what it called “a synchronised war on terror” on several fronts.

Operations against IS were followed by a crackdown on the Kurdish militant group PKK and other radical leftist groups.

The level of threat in the country has increased to extent not seen in recent years.

Early this week the most violent attacks since the crackdown took place, in retaliation for the increasing military operations against the PKK.

As the once solid ceasefire is in tatters, many fear peace is now something of the past and there’s more trouble ahead.

Most of those from Turkey who are fighting IS are Kurds

Ayse had 11 sons. One is now dead in Syria. Another is a soldier in the Turkish army. And another is a policeman.

She says she wants peace so that mothers won’t have to shed any more tears.

But the soldier son, who speaks on condition of anonymity, is more pessimistic.

“We were more than brothers, Salih and I. We were best friends. I’m a soldier. He died in Kobane. We want peace.

“But how is peace attainable when they don’t even let us bury our dead?” he asks.

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