Canadian Demands Justice for Slain Kurd Lawyer

Solicitor-Barrister Shirzad S. Ahmed of Calgary, Alberta (Canada) has sent the below open letter to top Canadian politicians, to human rights activists and to the Alberta legal community to investigate the assassination in Diyarbakir, Turkish Kurdistan, last month of Tahir Elci, president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association.

December 2, 2015

To Members of the Legal Community &

To All Concerned with Human Rights and Human Dignity

Dear Sir/Madam:

Re: Assassination of Pro-Kurdish lawyer Tahir Elci, President of the Diyarbakir Bar Association in Kurdistan of Turkey

I write as a concerned member of the Law Society of Alberta with respect to the assassination on November 28, 2015 of Tahir Elci, President of Diyarbakir Bar Association.

Mr. Elci was a Kurdish human rights lawyer and was serving his second term as President of the Diyarbakir Bar Association in Turkey when his life was cruelly cut short by an assassin’s bullet. Mr. Elci was 49 years old. Both as a lawyer and as a human rights advocate, Mr. Elci was a tireless and fearless fighter for countless victims of repression.

Solicitor-Barrister Shirzad S. Ahmed of Calgary, Alberta (Canada) has sent the below open letter to top Canadian politicians, to human rights activists and to the Alberta legal community to investigate the assassination in Diyarbakir, Turkish Kurdistan, last month of Tahir Elci, president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association.

December 2, 2015

To Members of the Legal Community &

To All Concerned with Human Rights and Human Dignity

Dear Sir/Madam:

Re: Assassination of Pro-Kurdish lawyer Tahir Elci, President of the Diyarbakir Bar Association in Kurdistan of Turkey

I write as a concerned member of the Law Society of Alberta with respect to the assassination on November 28, 2015 of Tahir Elci, President of Diyarbakir Bar Association.

Mr. Elci was a Kurdish human rights lawyer and was serving his second term as President of the Diyarbakir Bar Association in Turkey when his life was cruelly cut short by an assassin’s bullet. Mr. Elci was 49 years old. Both as a lawyer and as a human rights advocate, Mr. Elci was a tireless and fearless fighter for countless victims of repression.

He was a lead attorney in many cases dealing with Kurdish issues, including the deaths of 35 civilians in a 2011 airstrike in Uludere and the many other suspicious deaths of Kurds in Turkey. Mr. Elci also took many cases before the European Court of Human Rights. He was a strong believer in the rule of law, the value of human life and the need for peaceful ways of resolving fundamental differences relating to the Kurds in Turkey. At the time of his assassination, he had been delivering a speech in which he had called for the end of violence between the Turkish state and the Kurdish rebel/independence group, PKK.

Mr. Elci had been a victim of constant persecution by Turkish authorities.  In October 2015, Mr. Elci was detained and ordered to appear in an Istanbul court to answer for his comments to CNN Turk where he declared that PKK is a political movement and not a terrorist organization. The Court decided to release Mr. Elci, but banned him from travelling abroad. Amnesty International called on the Turkish regime “to end judicial harassment of” Mr. Elci. He had also received many death threats.

Mr. Elci’s death has led to widespread outcry and condemnation. All 81 heads of bar associations across Turkey and thousands of lawyers took part in his funeral. Metin Feyzioglu, head of the Turkish Bar Association said about the killing:

This bullet has been fired at not only our brother but at Turkey as a whole. We need to show that our unity will not be undermined, and this heinous attack will not succeed.

Emma Sinclair-Webb, Senior researcher at US-based Human Rights Watch, said:

This is a very dark day for Turkey.  The murder of Tahir Elci is a devastating blow not only to human rights activists but to all who want to see justice and rule of law prevail in Turkey.

The US Embassy in Turkey tweeted:

We are shocked by the tragic death of Tahir Elci- a courageous defender of human rights.

Richard Moore, British Ambassador to Turkey tweeted:

Shocked and depressed by the murder of my friend Tahir Elci. A good and brave man cut down. A human rights defender over many decades.

The reaction from close relatives and supporters of Mr. Elci does not bode well for the peace he preached.  Many observers place the blame squarely on the Turkish regime and the ruling AK Party.  “In the place left by Tahir Elci, thousands more Tahir Elci’s will carry on the work in the struggle for law and justice”, the Party statement read. The Diyarbakir Bar Association he led called the shooting an assassination.  The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party called the killing a “planned assassination”. Marchers in central Istanbul chanted “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism”.  Ahmet Elci, Mr. Elci’s brother, issued this statement:

I invite not only Kurds but also all Armenians, Assyrians, Arabs and Turks to stand with us at the funeral. I invite all citizens who define themselves as ‘democrats and humans’ to Tahir’s funeral… Tahir did not die and will not die. He was an independent human. The state may cuff our hands but not our minds.

The widow of Mr. Elci put it even more poignantly at the funeral: “he would now say, ‘my travel ban has been lifted. I am now free to go anywhere I want to’.”

It would be a sad commentary on our times that the murder of courageous people like Mr. Elci should just fade into oblivion without the legal communities across the globe voicing their outrage and disapproval.

Human rights lawyers and activists working in hostile and oppressive regimes around the globe should not for a moment view their work as lonely struggles, lacking the support of the general legal community. Both as lawyers and as members of the civil society, we must show by deeds that we abhor the kind of behavior that led to Mr. Elci’s murder.

We urge the members of the legal community to exert their influence, wherever this is possible, so as to send a strong message to all involved that the murder of people like Mr. Elci is viewed by legal communities across the globe as barbaric and unacceptable. This murder should not bring any comfort to those who intend or hope to benefit by it.  It should only bring scorn and condemnation. 

We are privileged here in Canada to live in a society where we can speak freely, criticize or even condemn what is wrong with those who govern us without fear of being gunned down.  These privileges entail a moral obligation on us to speak out in support of brave individuals like Mr. Elci, who seek similar freedoms and privileges in very trying circumstances.  The murder of Mr. Elci presents us with a unique opportunity to exercise our freedom in support of the ideal that privileges and freedoms as we enjoy in Canada are supposed to be universal values.  We must not remain silent when these values are so egregiously violated as in the murder of Mr. Elci.

Yours truly,

Shirzad S. Ahmed, AOE
Barrister & Solicitor

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4 comments
  1. In support of Mr Shirzad S Ahmed’s Letter

    In Canada we are extremely privileged to live in a free and open society, based on the premise of the rule and respect for the law. However this comes at a price. As individual citizens, and more importantly as caring and compassionate human beings, we have a responsibility to stand up and voice our minds when we believe an injustice or other act against humanity has occurred.

    During ordinary times, the meaningless senseless death of a human being in the prime of his or her life, is a tragic event. When the event arises from an accident, or even from natural causes, the tragedy resonates with anyone who possesses even an ounce of human compassion. But these are not ordinary times, and no accident of fate can justify or rationalize the criminal act of senseless murder that took place in Turkey earlier this day (28 Nov 2015). Tahir Elci, a prominent human rights lawyer, a decent human being who believed passionately that individual human lives matter, who lived and breathed the strength of his convictions and whose life’s profession was fearlessly advocating for those souls unfortunate enough to fall amiss of a tyrannical state, has had his life, a life representing a burning desire for peace, stability, tolerance, has been brutally extinguished.

    In ordinary times, the World would shrug with complacency, just one more tragedy. But these are not ordinary times. The middle East, the birthplace of civilization, where the law codes of Hammurabi first defined the notion of the rule of law, is in turmoil. The World needs to take notice of the death of this one great man, and not let this crime against humanity go unnoticed. The democratic societies of the World have a responsibility to stand up to tyrants. A man such as Tahir Elci would not have accepted his life to be a sacrifice if it were only to result in more violence, hatred, and oppression. It is much more likely that Tahir Elci would have desired his legacy be honoured by free souls illuminating the darkness of lies, deception, intolerance, and fear with the light of truth and human dignity. The free World has a responsibility and obligation to stand up and demand that Tahir Elci’s life and struggle not be in vain. Shame on the cowards who blighted this beacon of hope, and more shame on those who fail to re-ignite the message that Tahir Elci so bravely stood for.

  2. Support Shirzad Ahmed’s letter

    Thank you Keghart for posting this article. This is such an eloquent and powerful letter aimed directly at our conscience. Cheers!

  3. Assassination of Tahir Elçi

    December 8, 2015

    To: Professor Metin Feyzioğlu, Esq.
          President, Union of Turkish Bar Associations

                          Hakan Canduran
                          President, Ankara Bar Association

    Re: Assassination of President of Diyarbakir Bar Association

    On behalf of the 36,000 members of the Canadian Bar Association, we lend our voice in condemning the recent assassination of Tahir Elçi, President of Diyarbakir Bar Association.

    His senseless death is an affront, not only to the legal community but to all of us who live in a free and democratic society and we stand with those who have expressed their outrage.

    As jurists, it is incumbent upon us to uphold the tenets of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. It is at times like this when these principles are challenged, that we must stand together against persecution, barbarism and murder.

    I wish you and your members strength and courage as you begin the painful process of healing and recovery. We extend our condolences to Tahir Elçi’s family, friends and colleagues.

    Yours truly,

    Janet M. Fuhrer
    President, Canadian Bar Association

    1. What rule of law ?

      "it is incumbent upon us to uphold the tenets of freedom, democracy and the rule of law."

      The State of Turkey was founded on crime, the #1 Crime against humanity, Genocide, and continues to be an illicit, criminal state. What rule of law ?

      Those who organized Hrant Dink's murder are still being protected by the criminal state. 

      The only way for people in Asia Minor to live free and under the rule of law is for the criminal, illicit state of Turkey to be dismembered and dismantled. Unfortunately, Western block states, including Canada, defend and protect the criminal state. 

      The West, Europe in particular,  have always protected and coddled the invaders from East Asia. Just a month ago,the spineless EU offered $3 billion in blackmail  payoff to the criminal neo-Sultan Erdogan. Also a promise of visa-free travel and accession to EU. Crime pays when you are a Turk.

      What rule of law ?

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