CPJ Dangerous Assignments

For the complete Turkish text of Mehmed’s Book, click on the link below:


English Excerpt: An Istanbul taxi driver recalls his military service in southeast Turkey (1992-1994)

I became aware of my ethnic Kurdish origins during military service. Until then I believed all men were the same. I still believe that, but at first I was unfamiliar with the PKK.

Once we fought a battle in the Tendurek Mountains. The PKK had seen us and they had hidden in a hole. We passed by without seeing them. But the last man in the last team detected the PKK fighters. We surrounded them, and the clash started. We killed 16 PKK, and seized 16 Kalashnikovs and one Canas.

We lined the corpses up on the ground. When we got up in the morning their ears were all missing. It turned out that the rightists had cut off the ears during night watch . I felt awful. I had never in my life seen disfigured corpses like these.

The battalion commander was very angry. He asked if there were any imams [clerics] among us. A few raised their hands. “Tell us if what they have done is justified,” he asked them. Then he added: “Even if they are enemies, in our Islamic belief harming the dead is a sin.” I felt so bad, so depressed.

Later I was crashed out on my bed. We used to get ten days off after every operation, to rest our weary feet. Then I saw a man enclosing an ear in a letter that he had just written. People who cut off ears [often] mail them to their families. If I had objected, he might very well have accused me of “supporting the separatists”. And then they might have charged me with “being a PKK” and sent me to the Anti-Terror Unit for interrogation.

I was made to feel even more conscious of my Kurdish origins after completing military service. Once I applied for a job as security guard in a manufacturing company. Two other people applied for a receptionist job that was also open. The man in charge asked one of the other two guys if he could handle security. The guy said he had applied for the telephone reception, but even so he was employed in my place. Before military service, I couldn’t have imagined such a thing.

-From Mehmed’s Book: Soldiers Who have Fought in the Southeast Speak Out, by Nadire Mater (Metis Publishers, Istanbul, 1999)

Click here to read more about Nadire Mater and journalism in Turkey.