We lost a true hero this past month when Berfo Kirbayir passed away at age 105.
Called by those who knew her Berfo Ana, or Mother Berfo, her struggle to uncover the truth behind her son’s disappearance became a symbol for the thousands whose lives were carelessly tossed away by their own government. Their families still mourn them, they still need closure, and they still demand justice.
In Kirbayir’s case, her son was arrested by military police in 1980 and, while in custody, reportedly tortured and murdered by authorities. His remains were never found.
The issues of extrajudicial killings and impunity, along with the current government’s lackadaisical attitude in addressing past crimes has long been an issue of concern. Indeed, earlier this week, the European Court of Human Rights found Turkey guilty in the case of five shepherds who have been missing since 1996.
As I have written elsewhere, mass graves are scattered throughout Turkey, many unexamined or poorly excavated. In 2011, one mass grave near Bitlis was used as a public dump.
Kirbayir’s daughter has called on Prime Minister Erdogan to allow her mother in death what she had been denied in life: the bones of her slain child. “My mother died in disappointment,” she said, “give my brother’s bones to us and let us bury my mom with him.”
St. Lawrence University