Lawyer Tahir Elci, the president of the Diyarbakır Bar Association and a leading Kurdish rights activist, was assassinated during a press conference calling for an end to violence.
While it is still unclear who carried out the attack, Turkey’s leading pro-Kurdish Party is calling the act a “planned assassination.”
Elci has been under the spotlight recently after he contradicted state officials in televised remarks stating that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is not a terrorist group. He was detained in October and was awaiting trial for the comments he made during a debate that aired on CNN Türk television.
Elci, accompanied by about 20 lawyers from the bar association, was making a press statement condemning violence in front of a historic minaret that was harmed in recent clashes between the PKK and security forces.
A curfew in sur, the neighborhood where the attack took place was put into place immediately following Elci’s murder. State officials announced that they had launched an investigation into the attack, yet a gag order was placed on media reports about the investigation at the same time.
Southeastern Turkey has been rocked by waves of violence that has left several hundred people dead since a two-year-old truce between Ankara and the PKK collapsed in July.
Since June there have been three deadly attacks on pro-Kurdish activists blamed on the Islamic State (ISIS), including the October 10 suicide bombings at a peace rally in Ankara that killed 103.
A preliminary autopsy report revealed that Elci was shot in the back of his neck. Witnesses said Elci was shot after making a statement to the media. “The moment the statement ended, the crowd was sprayed with bullets,” a local official from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Ömer Taştan, told Reuters. “A single bullet struck Elci in the head,” he said, adding that 11 people had also been injured in the incident.
Diyarbakır Governor’s Office said in a statement that one policeman also died at the scene.
The incident sparked instant protests in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir and Diyarbakir.
Police fired tear gas and water cannons at the thousands gathered in central Istanbul who shouted “You can’t kill us all”, and “The state has to give an account.”
Video from @gokhanbicici shows heavy-handed police tactics against the peaceful remembrance march for Tahir Elci.
— D8 News / Turkey (@d8news) November 28, 2015
— İstanbul Indymedia (@Istanbul_Indy) November 28, 2015
Interview on October 24th with Channel 4 News, Elci speaks about death threats he receives.
Elci’s family posted a message on his Twitter account, which said “Goodbye friends, stay with goodness” with a picture of Elci waving goodbye.
Hoşçakalın dostlar. İyilikle kalın. pic.twitter.com/IcRmFQ7DpZ
— Tahir Elçi (@tahirelci) November 28, 2015