By Fecri Barlik
SIIRT, Turkey (AA) – Residents of the Eruh district of Siirt province in southeastern Turkey who witnessed the first attack of the PKK terrorist group against the Turkish state remember that dark night vividly.
The terror group attacked Eruh and Semdilli district of southeastern Hakkari province on Aug. 15, 1984, martyring a soldier and wounding 12, including three civilians.
Since then, the PKK has continued its terrorist attacks aiming to disrupt peace and brotherhood within Turkey.
Between the 80s and 90s, the terror group carried out various attacks against civilian settlements, killing Turkish citizens including babies in cradles.
Twenty-three years have passed since the terror group carried out a mass shooting in Derince village of Siirt's Baykan district on Oct. 21, 1993 which left 22 people dead including 13 children. The pain, however, is still fresh.
The photos of 3-year-old Serkan, who was shot by the terrorists, went viral at that time demonstrating the merciless face of terror to the international community.
Abdullah Ocalan, the ringleader of the terror group, was addressed as "baby killer" following this incident.
Feeding on blood and tears, the PKK has claimed many civilian lives in addition to those of security forces for the past 34 years. As a result of the bloody attacks by the terror group, scores of people became orphans or widows whereas thousands of others were left with disabilities. Those who lost their loved ones were left with unhealable heartache.
The citizens in Eruh district of Siirt province, where the first act of terrorism occurred, express hatred and grudge towards the terror group, expressing their full support to Turkish state's fight against the PKK.
– Witnesses tell the story
Cehver Ciftci, who was 17 years old when the attack occurred, told Anadolu Agency that the terrorists entered the district on Aug. 15. "Then, we began to hear gunshots echoing all around the city," he said.
"They entered every cafe in the downtown and captured some people, then made their propaganda. The residents of Eruh had no idea what was going on. We first thought that some families were shooting at each other to settle blood feuds," he said.
Noting that the terrorists later entered the mosques and began propagating their ideology in Turkish, Kurdish and Arabic, he said: "So, we realized that they were members of a terror group."
Referring to Suleyman Aydin of the Gendarmarie forces who was martyred that night, Ciftci said: "May he rest in peace, all people in Eruh were deeply upset upon his death as his relations with locals were good. Later on, a street in the downtown was named after him and a clock tower was built in his memory. His name is kept alive in Eruh."
– Bank robbery
Ciftci went on to say that the terrorists looked for the bank manager of the town as they wanted to rob the bank during the attack.
"They [terrorists] struggled to find him [bank manager]. Despite the pressure, the residents of Eruh didn't let them take the manager and prevented the state bank from being raided. Meanwhile, the bank manager was wounded in his leg. In the first terror attack, the people here took a firm stance by the state and protected its money, even at that darkest night," he said.
Emphasizing that 45 of the 54 villages were evacuated due to terrorist attack or pressure, he said: "Eruh district has suffered from the terror group so much, we, the residents of Eruh, don't want our lovely district to be mentioned with terror incidents. We love and respect our state, live under the Turkish flag. We are the people who are bound up with the state. As of Aug. 15, there wasn't a single Eruh resident in the terror group and we didn't know what was going on. The outsiders, backed by the foreign powers, came and attacked here."
Emin Bestas, another witness of the terror attack who was 32 back then, said that the terrorists raided the district when he was hanging out with his friends in a shop.
Forcing people to remain silent when they entered the shop, Bestas explained, the terrorists told the residents "we came to protect the people".
"Ironically enough, the district hadn't ever been subjected to any act of terrorism before," he added.
"Protecting people from whom? The public was already living in peace. No one even knew what PKK was, they had no supporters in the district.
"I used to work in a finance office, Corporal Suleyman would sometimes come to our office and leave some papers. He was a silent and good man. After he was martyred, everyone was sad," he said.
– Underdevelopment due to terrorism
Menuh Erdogan, who was only 14 when the terrorists targeted Eruh, noted that gunshots echoed in the night when terrorists raided the district.
"Unfortunately, the attacks still continue today. We have been tormented and victimized. Some fled, leaving their lands, animals behind. Due to PKK terrorism, our district and region have remained underdeveloped," he said.
"We are the citizens of this country and live under its flag. We are proud of our flag, our Turkishness and Kurdishness. We trust our state and this will continue that way. We recognize no one else, but our state," he asserted.
Abdurrahman Dayanan, another victim of the terror attack in the district, said that no one could foresee that the incident was an act of terrorism.
"We heard the terror propaganda on the loudspeaker. Then, the sound of gunshots increased. We stayed at a shop for about three hours," he said.
Dayanan pointed out that the residents of Eruh never wanted their district to be mentioned with terrorism as the locals had never supported the terrorist group.
"There is not anyone supporting terrorism in Eruh district, the locals here stand with our state. Without the public support, it will never be able to achieve its goals," he added.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey as well as the U.S. and the EU. In its terror campaign against Turkey, which has lasted for more than three decades, over 40,000 people have been killed, including women and children.