Turkish Military Covers Up Mass Grave of Possible Genocide Victims

MARDIN, Turkey–Turkish gendarmerie has instructed local villagers of a southeastern region to keep silence about a recently discovered a mass grave, discovered on October 17, that might contain remains of Armenian Genocide victims in mass burial site that might contain skeletons of massacred Armenia’s. According to Ulkede Ozgur Gundem, a Kurdish newspaper published in Turkish, villagers from Xirabebaba (Kuru) were digging a grave for one of their relatives when they came across to a cave full of skulls and bones of reportedly 40 people. The Xirabebaba residents assumed they had uncovered a mass grave of 300 Armenian villagers massacred during the Genocide of 1915. They informed Akarsu Gendarmerie headquarters, the local military unit, about the discovered remains. Turkish army officers, according to Ulkede Ozgur Gundem, instructed the villagers to block the cave entrance and make no mention of the remains buried in it. The officers said an investigation would take place. The newspaper reported on the developmen’s and the Turkish military’s attempt to hide the news. In an October 22 article, titled Found by Villagers: Covered up by the Military, the newspaper wrote that soldiers from Akarsu gendarmerie headquarters came to the site, covered the cave entrance and took photographs. Journalists, who had arrived to obtain more information, were denied access to the cave. Although there had been prior instances of finding mass burial sites believed to be from the Armenian Genocide, this was the first incident when a Turkish daily newspaper reported the discovery. As the mass burial made news, local gendarmerie made another visit to the villagers. The latter were pressed to report the name of the person who leaked the mass burial discovery to the press. The officers told the villagers that the news reported by Roj TV, an international Kurdish satellite television, and Ulkede ozgur Gundem were all lies. The villagers were warned not to show anyone directions to the cave. The victims of the mass grave, according to Sodertorn University History Professor David Gaunt, are most likely the 150 Armenian and 120 Syrian males, heads of their families, from the nearby town of Dara (now Oguz) killed on June 14, 1915. The Armenian and Syrian residents were marched out of the town, and only one person was known to have escaped to tell of what had happened, Prof. Gaunt said. According to the Syrian survivor, his marching neighbors were murdered and their bodies were placed in a well. The mass burial in this cave suggests that the two groups could have been killed in separate places, and that the Armenia’s were put into this cave, while the Syrians were put in a well, concluded Prof. Gaunt, whose book, Massacres, Resistance, Protectors: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia during World War I, is due out this month.

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