The Turkish public was suddenly shocked by a horrific form of torture in the 1990s, after hundreds of bodies and human remains were exhumed from several cellars in various regions of the country.
The bodies were generally found naked and in a “tied” condition, with their hands and feet tied behind their backs.
Some of them were buried alive, others were left to die with broken bones.
They were all victims of a Kurdish radical group called “Turkish Hezbollah” – a group not associated with the Lebanese Hezbollah.
The group has long been suspected of having backed the Turkish government in its fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish Marxist-Leninist militia group.
Turkey’s Hezbollah, however, targets not only the PKK, but also Muslim intellectuals, politicians and writers who share liberal views on Islam.
Those brutally assassinated by Turkey’s Hezbollah in the 1990s include prominent Muslim feminist Konca Kuris, who became a new symbol of defiance against Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s conservative government.
The case has resurfaced again because President Erdogan has openly pushed for a Kurdish Islamic political party called the Huda Par Party, which he accuses of being the political wing of Turkey’s Hezbollah.
In the May 14 elections, thanks to the support and nomination of President Erdogan and his coalition with the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Huda Par won four seats in the Turkish parliament for the first time since its founding in 2012.
The opposition in Turkey, which accuses Huda Par of being linked to Turkey’s Hezbollah, is now criticizing Erdogan for forming a coalition with the party they call the “Kanca Kuris killers”.
Huda Par officials categorically deny accusations that “the party has many links with any terrorist organization”, but several members of the party have been prosecuted, jailed, and later released in connection with Hezbollah activities.
Who is Konca Kuris, and why has he appeared as a warning in Türkiye?
In the summer of 1998, Konca Kuris was reported missing. According to an article in the Turkish Milliyet newspaper , Kuris and her husband left the textile factory they run on the evening of July 16, heading home in their minibus.
“When they were about to open the door of their house at around 1am, three gunmen came out of their hiding place, and overpowered Orhan Kuris, Konca Kuris’ husband. They then laid him on the ground, and took his vehicle keys,” the newspaper wrote.
“They then forced Konca Kuris into the minibus and immediately left the location.”
Nobody heard from Konca Kuris for a year. His family and friends searched everywhere for Konca Kuris, while politicians began to suspect the Hezbollah group, due to reports of liberal writers and politicians being kidnapped by the group – then found dead.
After 555 days after he disappeared from his house, the bound body of Konca Kuris was found in a basement.
He was reportedly tortured for 35 days before finally dying. The tormentors even recorded the grisly torture process. Videos of her torture were found by police and shared with journalists.
Turkey’s Hezbollah later claimed responsibility for his kidnapping and killing in a statement, calling Kuris an “enemy of Islam”.
The name of this mother of five children stuck out in the 1990s because of her liberal views on Islam.
She is a feminist who wears the headscarf, but adheres to a more open interpretation of the practice of Islamic teachings.
He was highly critical of Hezbollah and the concept of patriarchy in Islam, and supported equality between men and women. He also advocated a rationalist approach to reading and understanding the text of the Koran.
“He was against women being in a subordinate position in Islam,” said Berrin Sonmez, a prominent Islamic feminist writer.
“She is a brave and tough woman who does not hesitate to express her views. But she expresses them with very sharp language – Kurnis has caught their attention.”
Kuris has no formal theological background, but he has a curious soul.
He joined various Islamic groups to explore Islam and the Koran.
According to Sonmez, he was initially attracted to Turkey’s Hezbollah, but quickly distanced himself from them because Kuris found him “too extreme”.
Fight for women’s rights
“First of all, I want my rights as a woman. I object to the mistakes in translating the Koran today, and I see it as a distortion of religion.
“The Qur’an has so far been translated, and interpreted by men, which supports a patriarchal and misogynistic interpretation of its verses.”
This sentence referring to the figure of Kuris was published in Pazartesi magazine in 2000.
Kuris challenges traditional Islam which prohibits menstruating women from praying, fasting, reading the Koran, or attending Friday prayers and funeral prayers (Islamists justify these provisions by referring to verses from the Koran or Hadith).
He also believes that there is no obligation in Islam for women to cover their heads and bodies with hijab.
Ayse Sevilay Bal, a friend of the Kuris family remembers one of her questions:
“At first, when she started to get attracted to more radical forms of Islam, she wore the hijab that was completely closed, then she switched to trousers, and a headscarf.
“He would ask my husband – a theologian – whether women should be forced to wear the headscarf or not. He didn’t dare take off his headscarf then.”
Kuris is also a staunch women’s rights activist, says Ayse Sevilay Bal.
“He taught men how to treat women with respect, how not to bully us, how to help us with domestic chores. He opened our eyes and minds.”
Threats and warnings
When appearing on television, Kuris’ influence extends throughout the country.
It was then that he began receiving death threats from Turkey’s Hezbollah, which called it an “enemy of Islam”.
Her close friends and colleagues advised her to tone down her criticism, but Kuris ignored the warnings.
During an interview with the Miliyet newspaper in 2000, Kuris’ father-in-law Abdullah Kuris claimed that Kuris was being tougher on Hezbollah because he was becoming more critical of their interpretation of Islam, after visiting a conference on Islam and women in Iran.
“I warned him not to go to Iran, but he didn’t listen,” Abdullah Kuris told the newspaper.
“I told him to stop skinning Hezbollah, because I was afraid something might happen to him. But he always said: ‘If I have to die, I will die in the way of Islam.”
Kuris’ body was exhumed in a tomb in January 2000.
“One of the main reasons why he was killed, was because he knew the Hezbollah community inside and out,” Sonmez said.
“Secondly, he managed to gather a mass of supporters around him with views that are contrary to the current interpretation of Islam,” he added.
Huda Par, the political party accused of being the political wing of Turkey’s Hezbollah, now has four seats in parliament and is promoting a new constitution with hardline Islamic values, which grants few rights to women.
The opposition is likely to bring the name Konca Kuris in the first opportunity for debate in parliament.
Source : BBC