Turkey's Uludere commission viewed Heron
images: "Obviously Smugglers"
and CHP deputies who watched the heron footage of
the Uludere area commented, "The images were very
clear, the people were killed while they were
clearly visible". Head of the commission Üstün
argued that the images alone are not enough to see
the whole picture.
Locals gather in front of the bodies of people who
were killed in a Turkish warplane attack in the Ortasu
village of Uludere, in the Sirnak province [Turkey
Kurdistan], on December 29, 2011. Turkish warplanes
killed 34 Kurdish villagers in an air strike near
the Iraqi Kurdistan border, Photo: Getty.
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ANKARA, At a meeting on Wednesday
evening (15 February), the Parliamentary Human
Rights Commission viewed the images taken by Heron
drones before and during the aerial strike in the
Uludere region (south-eastern Turkey) on 28
The bombing caused the death of 34 civilian Kurds
from the villages of Gülyazı (Bujeh) and Ortasu (Roboski)
in Northern Kurdistan. The Parliamentary Human
Rights Commission had established a sub-commission
related to the incident. Members of the
sub-commission travelled to Şırnak on 2/3 February
in order to talk to military and civic officials and
also to survivors of the bombardment and relatives
of the victims.
Opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Tunceli
Deputy Hüseyin Aygün said in a statement made to
bianet after the Wednesday meeting, "The
communication traffic between the people in charge
of watching the Heron pictures and the executives of
the General Staff who gave the order for the
bombardment must be disclosed. It definitely has to
be clarified how this decision was given and what it
was based on".
"There are about ten hours of footage from the day
of the incident showing the time prior to the
incident and the bombing. The first image was taken
at 18.23 hrs showing a procession of 40 people
moving from the Gülyazı village to the plain at
Haftanin [Iraqi Kurdistan region-southern
Kurdistan]. There, about six to eight trucks are
waiting, carrying a certain load. The loading takes
about one hour. The villagers set out towards the
Turkish border at 19.16 hrs".
"The bombing started at 21.40 hrs. It can be watched
from the beginning to the end on the Heron pictures.
Even we could see with the naked eye that the
villagers were carrying a load".
"We watched the footage together with military
officials and experts. We asked if somebody had
knowingly allowed the bombing of the villagers and
how the experts could not understand that these were
villagers. However, none of our questions were
answered. We were informed that they talked to the
Diyarbakir Special Authority Prosecutor who is in
charge of the investigation before they came to see
"How was the decision for the bombardment given?
What was being said in the conversations between
those who kept track of the Heron images and the
ones who gave the decision? Did these experienced
people misinterpret the pictures? Those who followed
the Heron images might have communicated that the
people on the pictures were civilians. These
questions have to be answered and the communication
traffic has to be disclosed".
Aygün underlined that it was essential to reveal all
those who carry any responsibility for the incident
in order to reach a sound conclusion.
"They were obviously
Aygün said that the descriptions of the villagers
were confirmed by the images. CHP Deputy Levent Gök
stated, "Even with the naked eye it was obvious that
they were smugglers".
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Deputy for Mersin
Ertuğrul Kürkçü said "We were deeply shocked by the
Head of the commission Ayhan Sefer Üstün, Sakarya
Deputy of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP),
commented, "The images alone are not enough to see
the big picture. We will reach a conclusion by
evaluating all data".
The Head of the Uludere Sub-Commission, İhsan Şener,
noted, "It is said 'The images clearly show that
they were smugglers' because the result of this
incident is certain. If the result of the incident
was not clear, it would not be possible to
understand from the Heron images only 'whether they
were terrorists or smugglers'".
The meeting of the commission to watch the images
taken by the Heron drones was held in the evening of
15 February. The session was also attended by three
specialists of the Military Electronics Industries (ASELSAN)
and two officers of the General Staff. Members of
Parliament who were not part of the commission were
not allowed to join the meeting and neither were
"We watched in horror"
Aygün claimed, "Even the hooves of the mules were
visible. Everything we were told by the villagers
was confirmed. They were bombed four times within 40
CHP Sivas Deputy Malik Ecder Özdemir said, "We
watched [the footage] in horror. Each and every
image from the beginning till the end shows that
these people were smugglers. The mules right next to
them can be seen with the naked eye".
"Images are very clear"
Özdemir stressed that the images were very clear.
"We saw people and mules passing over a stream. It
was such a place where the people and mules had to
pass one by one. It was possible to see how many
mules and how many people crossed", he said.
CHP Deputy for Ankara Levent Gök indicated, "We were
able to locate with the naked eye the movements of
people and mounts from the frontier in Turkey to the
frontier in Iraq. These people exchanged goods and
returned. It gave us the creeps. The images were so
clear that we did not need the specialists we had
called for assistance".
Kürkçü defined that the footage covered the period
between 15.59 and 01.01 hrs. "There are no images
from inside the village. The entire footage shows
the exchange of goods across the border. The Heron
images correspond exactly to what we were told by
the villagers. The images are from beyond the
Refik Eryılmaz, member of the commission and CHP
Hatay Deputy, remarked, "A few hours passed between
the discovery of the group and the attack.
Considering the time that passed in the meanwhile,
we have to ask if information could have been
obtained from different places in the meantime".
The deputies addressed the specialists and military
officials at the meeting with several questions:
They asked for Heron footage previously taken of PKK
members and smugglers in order to be able to
compare. They also wanted to know according to which
reasons and circumstances the political power gave
the decision for the attack. Furthermore the
deputies questioned, "45 minutes passed between the
first and the last bombardment. Did the military not
understand that those people were smugglers in the
meantime?" However, none of the deputies' questions
Özdemir summarized the incident based on the Heron
"At first, eight vehicles are coming from Northern
Iraq. These vehicles wait in the valley where the
Haftanin and Kutalma streams flow together. It is
obvious that they brought goods. Later on, a crowded
group of people moves into this direction from
Turkish territory. They arrive and wait there for a
long time. Goods are being loaded on mules. After
that, they start returning to the Turkish side the
same way they came in groups of two to three
The members of the commission watched about four
hours of the nine-hour footage. Özdemir described
the course of events minute by minute:
17.20: Four vehicles move from Iraq towards Turkey.
The vehicles gather at the valley between the
Haftanin and Kutalma streams.
18.25: The first crowded group of smugglers comes
from the village and walks towards the meeting
point. This is the first image of the villagers.
18.55: The third crowded group of villagers comes.
19.16: The first group has loaded goods and starts
returning the way they came towards the Turkish
19.40: The groups heading for the Turkish border
start to gather at a certain point.
They wait close to the border until 21.24 hrs. This
means that there was artillery fire in the meantime.
21.36: The Heron drone shows a point to the planes
with a laser spot.
21.36: The first bomb is thrown.
21.43: The second bomb is thrown.
22.04: The third bomb is thrown.
22.24: Another group following the others is being
22.45: People hurry from the village towards the
scene of incident.
23.00: The villagers reach the scene of incident.
Üstün, Head of the Parliamentary Human Rights
"We allowed the ASELSAN team time to prepare a
report within the framework of the questions raised
by the members of the commission. We will write a
report based on the images and these
"It is too early and it would be deceptive to make a
comment before seeing the whole picture. Opinions
might change according to the people you listen to.
We might call the experts again. We have to look at
the big picture. These images do not show the big
picture. (...) We have advanced but there is still
some way ahead of us".
"The images look like black stains every now and
then. But when they start moving you understand that
this is the movement of a person or an animal. When
they are in a crowded group it looks like one single
spot. There are movements of vehicles. You can see
that they are vehicles. The activity starts from the
territory of Northern Iraq".
The other AKP deputies as members of the commission
did not comment on the issue referring to the
"confidentiality of the investigation".
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