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Turkish Human Rights Lawyer Tahir Elci Assassinated
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Tahir Elci-portrait

Tahir Elci. Photo courtesy of The Independent.

Summary: Kurdish human rights lawyer Tahir Elci was murdered in public on Nov. 28.

Kurdish lawyer Tahir Elci spoke at a news conference at a historic mosque in Diyabakir, an old city in southeastern Turkey. The influential human rights lawyer spoke passionately about ending the violence in the city. “We don’t want guns, clashes and operations in this historical area, which has been a cradle to many civilizations,” he said.


Then moments later, he was assassinated.

Elci was murdered with one shot, and his killer has not been identified. Two police officers were also murdered nearby.

Elci was an active human rights lawyer since the 1990s. He played an important role in investigating alleged abuses by Turkey, and he was outspoken against violence conducted by Kurdish militants. While Diyarbakir was embroiled with violence, he spoke about the political process using the rational language of rights and laws.

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Southeastern Turkey is a region that is home to many Kurds, an ethnic group without a country. They reside in parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. For several decades, the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Parker (PKK) has waged war against the Turkish government over Kurdish rights and self-rule. The group is known as a terrorist organization, and before his death, Elci had been arrested for saying that the group should not be defined by that term.

On Nov. 9, Elci spoke with TIME about the conflict.

“The situation is very bad, but I’m afraid that it will be worse. Every day it will be worse,” Elci said. “As we understand, the PKK doesn’t want to leave the city centers or leave its military activity in the civilian areas. The security forces and the other side confront each other. Everybody is worried about the next days.”

Turkey’s President Erdogan spoke about Elci after news of his death broke out. “May Allah have mercy on Mr. Elci and our martyred police,” he said.


A Kurdish woman walks past a building damaged the conflict in southeast Turkey. Photo courtesy of the New York Times.




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