The Killing of Tahir Elçi

The Killing of Tahir Elçi

On 28 November 2015, Tahir Elçi, a prominent Kurdish human rights lawyer, was shot and killed during a press conference in the city of Diyarbakır, Turkey.

Elçi’s death came during a time of rising tensions in the country, against the backdrop of the decades-long conflict between Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a militant political movement dedicated to achieving Kurdish autonomy in Turkey’s southeast.

By late 2015, a major peace process had recently collapsed into violence. Elçi had been a prominent voice for calm and de-escalation, but after his death, the situation in Diyarbakır deteriorated into humanitarian catastrophe, leaving hundreds of civilians dead and thousands displaced. 

It was not only the manner of his death—seemingly echoing the assassinations of the conflict’s worse years—that caused outrage, and fulled rumours and conspiracy theories. The early days of the investigation into his death were chaotic, and in three years since the killing, no one has been charged.

In 2016, the Diyarbakır Bar Association, of which Elçi was chairman at the time of his death, asked Forensic Architecture to examine the evidence in their possession, and to independently investigate the circumstances of his death. As Elçi was killed during a press conference, multiple cameras captured the moments leading up to his death. 

In December 2018, the results of our analysis were submitted to the public prosecutor in Diyarbakır, with the intention of challenging the Turkish state to reinvigorate its own investigation. 

In February 2019, we published an extended report on our investigation through openDemocracy, exploring in depth some of the wider context behind Elçi’s death, and our investigation. You can read that here (English) and here (Türkçe).

You can also view our methodology here: EnglishTürkçe

Forensic Architecture team

Eyal Weizman (Principal Investigator)

Stefan Laxness (Project Coordinator)

Dr Başak Ertür (Senior Researcher)

Nathan Su

Robert Trafford

Grace Quah

Ali Aslan

Nicole Miller

Sarah Nankivell

Faezah Ahmed

Lauren Apple-Hampton (Sound advisor)

Thanks to

Emma Sinclair-Webb and Josh Lyons – HRW

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