Am 22. 5. 2013 wurde Medet Önlü, einer der wichtigsten politischen Vertreter der tschetschenischen Minderheit in der Türkei, Opfer eines Mordanschlags. Die türkischen Ermittlungen verlaufen schleppend und in etlichen Punkten offenbar auch irregulär. Deutsche Medien hingegen haben zu diesem tragischen Fall nicht einmal berichtet. Bisher sind Informationen auf Deutsch ausschließlich bei der Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker und seit neuem auch auf der Webseite der Europäisch-Tschetschenischen Gesellschaft zu finden.
Es folgt ein Interview mit seinem Neffen Abrek Önlü, der als Aktivist in der türkisch-nordkaukasischen NGO Caucasus Forum tätig ist und maßgeblich an der No Sochi-Kampagne dieser Organisation mitgewirkt hat bzw. an deren Neuauflage als kNOw Sochi beteiligt ist. Weitere Bezüge des Mordes an Önlü und der politischen Verhältnisse des Ostkaukasus einerseits zur Situation der Tscherkessen im Westkaukasus andererseits dürften im Verlaufe des Interview deutlich werden. Das Interview wurde auf Englisch geführt, um seine Verbreitung sowie eine Kontaktaufnahme möglicher Unterstützer bzw. interessierter Journalisten zu erleichtern. Hier auf meinem blog gebe ich ausnahmsweise die englische Originalfassung wieder, in seiner deutschen Übersetzung ist das Interview im Community-Teil des Freitag nachlesbar.
Irma Kreiten (Interviewer): Could you start by telling us something about yourself and your family history?
Abrek Önlü: My name is Abrek. I am a Chechen from Turkey. A Turkish citizen. My mother is a second generation Chechen immigrant, while my father is from one of the Chechen villages in Turkey. Let me explain this last part: as some of the readers may know, the long-lasting Russian-Caucasian wars of the 19th century ended in massive massacres and a genocide. Afterwards there were deportations and migrations from all of Northern Caucasus to Anatolia. Many Caucasian villages were founded in Turkey. My father is from one of them.
I was born and grew up in Turkey. I graduated from Middle East Technical University with a degree in Maths. Now I am a consultant in the area of enterprise technologies.
Irma Kreiten: You yourself are politically active. Can you say a few words about your work for the Turkish NGO Caucaus Forum? What made you join this organization?
Abrek Önlü: Caucasus Forum is a youth organization for political activism concentrating mainly on the peoples of the Caucasus and the Caucasian diaspora. It is about 10 years old now, well organized and quite popular in Turkey. You can just browse its website at caucasusforum.org in order to learn more.
I joined about 8 years ago and took part in many projects and activities of Caucasus Forum. My reasons for joining it in short: because I am sensitive regarding the matters of my people, plus, because I wanted to participate in the effort to change the world to a better place. What “better” means to me basically is more freedom, more justice and more equality amongst peoples and individuals.
Irma Kreiten: Let us speak about your uncle Medet Önlü now. Why is he being referred to as honorary consul? What does it mean that he was a representant of the Republic of Ichkeria? Why are there two rival political formations that both claim to stand for a Chechen state? What kind of political visions for Chechnya did your uncle embrace? What was his attitude towards the Kadyrow regime?
Abrek Önlü: He was assigned for this post by the President of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI) at the time.
ChRI is the state that was founded by Chechens in Chechnya in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The first president, Dzhokhar Dudaev, came to power with full support of Chechens and then announced ChRI as an independent republic. ChRI is the last legitimate state on Chechen lands, having held the last legitimate election in 1997, which resulted in Aslan Maskhadov’s (3rd president) victory. Then after the second war the Russian government occupied ChRI and assigned a different government in cooperation with Akhmed Kadirov, Ramzan Kadirov’s father.
My uncle as an official representative of ChRI was conscious of the fact that Ramzan Kadirov and his regime are not legitimate. It is just a regime of the occupant, enforced onto the Chechen land with the help of local collaborators, at present namely Ramzan Kadirov.
I’d like to recall a fact about ChRI for the readers: It is a legitimate state that was founded in a proper way, having all the institutions that a modern state structure has. The speculations about Wahhabites, radical Islamists, etc. are not grounded in the structure of the ChRI. The administration of ChRI never took any part in certain incidents that caused these speculations like apartment bombings in 1999, the Nord-Ost siege in 2002, the Beslan attack in 2004 or the Domodedovo bombing in 2010. ChRI only reflects the natural and collective will of the Chechen people, most of whom deeply condemn and strictly refuse any link with these acts against innocent civilians.
Irma Kreiten: I have heard people speaking about your uncle with great respect and love, not only for the political role he played, but also for his warm and generous personality. Can you describe to us the functions he fulfilled in assisting Chechens who sought refuge in Turkey from war-torn Caucasus?
Abrek Önlü: It is true that many people respected and liked my uncle, especially Chechen asylum-seekers (or refugees) in Turkey. Besides his political role, he personally assumed responsibility for each and every Chechen that needed help in Turkey, irregardless of his or her political view or “camp”. This help included all their paperwork, representing their rights before the government, providing them with social and legal assistance etc. So this was important because what he did should officially have been done by Turkish government, looking at the example of Western European states.
Irma Kreiten: How did the murder take place? What do you know so far and how did you obtain this information? Does evidence point to only one offender or are there any signs that more individuals could have been involved in the deed? What was the role of Turkish police investigation?
Abrek Önlü: It is a professional assassination that was planned and organized by a professional team. We know who ran the operation: a Chechen guy called Rizvan Esbulatov. His local connections who took part are also clear. Rizvan himself first got into contact with my uncle a few months before the murder. He approached him with some alleged business reasons. Then he introduced the hitman as a “local business partner”. Since there were many Chechens and Turks that he had been discussing business with, my uncle apparently did not get suspicious.
The hitman’s real name is Murat Aluç. He first visited Medet Önlü’s office 2 weeks before the event, for a short meeting. Aluç then came to the office for the second time on May 21st with the intention to assassinate him, but since my uncle was not alone he had to postpone it to the next day. The murder took place on May 22nd, at 19:08, when my uncle was right about to leave his office and head home. His family got worried after about 11pm, tried to call him but he was not answering. Then his body was found in the office at about midnight, by the police and his family.
For the last 2 weeks, by evidence, Murat Aluç and his team had been following Medet Önlü around his office and home in order to discover his routine and to finalize their assassination plan. He was doing everything in cooperation with his driver and associate Ömer Peltek (who is missing now too) with the help of his sister, girlfriend and some more people. Before the murder, he was evidently reporting to Rizvan directly as well as by making use of collaborators as intermediaries.
An important part of all this information comes from Medet Önlü’s personal diary and accidental reports by informants, not the police, which also has not been able to seize any of the individuals mentioned above.
Irma Kreiten: Had there been any indications that Medet Önlü was under immanent danger? Did he receive any threats? Had he or his family ever thought about applying for police protection?
Abrek Önlü: Since many opponents of Kadirov and his regime had been killed before in various places at various times, it was not the least likely thing to happen - we always had in mind this possibility. However, except for this thought and some faint rumors, to my knowledge there was not a clear threat before the murder. Thus he or his family never applied for police protection.
Irma Kreiten: Why, do you think, was it your uncle who was singled out as a target? Who, do you think, was the main force behind this criminal act? What could have been the motive? Do you think that the murder was also meant as a message for other Northern Caucasian activists or exile politicians?
Abrek Önlü: Let me start with the second question. There is only one person in this world who had the necessary capacities and the motive for killing my uncle. That person is Ramzan Kadirov. Why this was done now and why my uncle had become the target are clear too. Compared to the past, Medet Önlü had gotten quite alone in Turkey. Most of the public support for the Chechen cause had disappeared. Significant investments have been made and relationships built in the course of the cooperation between Kadirov’s Chechnya and Turkey. And most importantly, the Turkish government had stopped supporting the idea of an independent Chechen state at all. This means the government had more benefit in covering up this murder than in hunting down the criminals. I believe “the main force behind the murder” had and still has the sources to check and validate these circumstances before attacking. Six other Caucasian murders that happened in Turkey in past 4 years also point to this fact. If they had thought that the Turkish government would really try to go after the criminals, they would not even have thought about it at all. And for your information: None of these murders has been resolved yet.
Regarding the latter question, as long as Kadirov type governments exist and are supported by empires like Russia, and as long as “3rd world” style governments like Turkey are there to cover things up -if not to cooperate directly!-, everybody who speaks or does anything for justice in or freedom and independence of the Caucasus is under danger.
Irma Kreiten: You already mentioned your view that the murderer had originally planned his deed for May 21. What makes you establish a connection between the murder of your uncle and Circassian issues and do you also see a connection to the NoSochi campaign?
Abrek Önlü: It would be too big a coincidence if timing had not been intentional. One could suggest that there is no direct connection between the Chechen independence movement and the Circassian opposition. I, however, see an obvious connection as these two issues are two foci of the peoples of the Caucasus who maintain strong opposition to the Russian government or its underlings.
Irma Kreiten: With regard to the Anna Politkovskaya murder case I frequently encounter comments that deny the political nature of her murder and instead insinuate that she fell victim to “mere“ economic crime, as a consequence of having established contacts with the “Chechen mafia“. In the case of your uncle, several Turkish newspaper articles seem to have stressed his role as businessman. Is there a tendency to make similar allegations with regard to your uncle? If so, how would you like to respond to people making such allegations?
Abrek Önlü: About Anna, it is just funny that some people claim that it would have economic reasons. But Russian authorities had clear reasons to present it that way. The murder of Medet Önlü is probably treated in a similar way, as there were some pieces of news emphasizing his business identity, like you said. His business, however, by no means had a potential to create a danger to him - due to its nature and bulk -, while his political activities were proven numerous times to be extremely dangerous.
Irma Kreiten: Which stage is the legal persecution at now? Would you like to comment on how it is proceeding? What needs to be done? Did you contact any international human rights organizations? If so, how did these react, did they offer you any support?
Abrek Önlü: Yes, I can make some comments on the legal process. The police department has recently completed its investigation and handed the file to the public prosecutor. Hitman Murat Aluç, his associates or the instigator Rizvan Esbulatov have not been caught. The investigation is proceeding very slowly and some unusual proceedings have already occurred. Although evidently involved, several associates of Murat Aluç were set free shortly after having been arrested. Several operations to catch Aluç, which were based on informant reports, were cancelled suddenly at the last moment without any evident reason/ with no reason being given. Plus, no statement has been made at government level. Mass media such as newspapers and TV channels definitely reject to cover the issue. For us as his family, it is now clear that the Turkish government does not possess the will to find the people responsible for his murder and hold them responsible for it/bring about justice, they rather seem to be covering it up.
As I explained above a few times, we as his family do not count on official authorities. We keep a close eye on the official legal procedures, but in the meanwhile we are looking for alternative ways too. We have already got in touch with some international human rights organizations and are going to undertake some steps together with them very soon.
Irma Kreiten: The death of Medet Önlü is not only a deep loss for the wider Chechen community of Turkey, he also left behind a family. Do you want to say something about how his relatives feel now, several months after his murder and with the offender(s) still remaining unprosecuted? How do his children cope with the loss of their father?
Abrek Önlü: First of all, the Chechen freedom movement has lost many great men like Dudaev, Yandarbiev, Mashadov, Sadullaev, Basaev and many others. My uncle, fortunately, has not only shared their struggle, but also their destiny too. We are and will always be proud of this.
Other than that, losing an uncle, a brother, a father, a husband is very, very hard. When the person you lose is somebody like Medet Önlü, it is even harder. When the way you lose him is a murder by some professional gang, the pain rises even higher. But, nothing can be as hard and painful as watching your government do nothing against the murderers of your family. This is like an official silence in the face of the biggest injustice that could happen to you.
Irma Kreiten: How does the assassination of your uncle fit in with the general situation of Chechens in Turkey and elsewhere? In how far is the murder of Medet Önlü similar or different to other assaults against Northern Caucasians? How would you describe the state of protection of Northern Caucasians living outside the Russian Federation?
Abrek Önlü: I guess we covered some of these questions above. There are certain similarities and differences in-between this case and other murders of Chechen or Caucasians that took place in Turkey. One important difference is that no other victim was a Turkish citizen. Similarities are that those other murders were political too, they were planned and carried out in a professional way too, their instigators were Russian citizens too and the most important similarity is, all happened during the time of Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration. None of these murders has been resolved and there has been no single official comment from the government.
By the way, I’d like to remind the readers that last week the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmet Davutoğlu stated (with regard to another topic) that “Turkey is not a country where other intelligence units can comfortably perform operations. This is a requirement of independence.” I see a terrible contradiction here.
The state of protection of Caucasians depends totally on where they live. If the host country is a civilized, developed one who cares about humans in the right way, they are relatively safe but if it is a “developing country” which is experiencing problems with its independence as the Foreign Minister’s above contradiction shows, then Caucasians are never safe, even if they are citizens of that country and not refugees in that country.
Irma Kreiten: How could normal citizens who are reading this help you in demanding justice for your uncle? Is there a petition they can sign or any common political action that they can join? Who, do you think, can help so that this case is not hushed up and forgotten, and what can and should be done on an international level?
Abrek Önlü: We are creating a new campaign on and off line that will be announced soon.
Irma Kreiten: Is there a message or an appeal you would like to transmit to your German audience?
Abrek Önlü: Thanks for your attention. If you would like to support or contact us, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anmerkung: Hinweise auf Petitionen und Kampagnen zur Aufklärung des Mordes an Medet Önlü werden folgen.