Did Turkish army kill the feminist Konca Kuris?

Konca Kuris was a loving mother with five children. She also dared to challenge Islamic orthodox teachings on women, and insisted that women's rights had a place in Islam. In January, her rotting body was dug up out of the ground, disfigured beyond recognition.

Konca Kuris was a loving mother with five children. She also dared to challenge Islamic orthodox teachings on women, and insisted that women's rights had a place in Islam. In January, her rotting body was dug up out of the ground, disfigured beyond recognition.

Kuris was abducted two years ago, tortured for 38 days, murdered and buried in a shallow grave. Her killers made a video of the torture sessions. So who killed Konca Kuris?

The answer leads to another grave, newly dug in south-east Turkey this year - a grave no one dares even go near. It leads to a terror group calling itself the "Army of God", which committed hundreds of "executions" in which the killers were never caught, even when the police were witnesses. It leads to a looming political crisis, which has pitted the head of the military against elected MPs. And it leads to Islamic terrorists supported, trained, and maybe armed by security forces.

Kuris was among several Islamists who abruptly disappeared. Police could find no trace of them, until, acting on a tip-off, they raided a house in Istanbul. It was a safe house used by the Kurdish group Hizbullah, the Army of God.

Turkey's Hizbullah is not related to the Lebanese group of the same name. It is committed to Islamic revolution in Anatolia. In the police raid, the leader of the group, Huseyin Velioglu, was shot dead. He was buried in his home town of Batman, in the Kurdish south-east. Militants captured in the raid revealed that the organisation killed Kuris and the other Islamists.

Police have since captured a large number of Hizbullah militants, and several of the most prominent are on trial. The government has used the spectre of them to justify a purge of hundreds of state employees for alleged links with Islamic groups it is trying to force through. On the surface, Turkey is dealing with Hizbullah. But that is not the whole story.

People are afraid to walk too close to Velioglu's grave. But people here are used to fear: Batman is notorious for"mystery killings". Between 1992 and 1996, it had 363 unsolved murders.

"I am a witness," said Murat Aydin, a local Kurd. "I saw Mehmet Sincar killed." Sincar, a pro-Kurdish MP, was shot dead in the main square of Batman at 4pm in 1993. His murderer was never caught. "There were police and soldiers all around that day," Mr Aydin said. "They just ignored the killing."

Most of the "mystery killings" of Batman were like that. But no one in Batman is in any doubt as to who the killers were. "It was Hizbullah," Mr Aydin said. "We all knew who they were." In Batman, they call themcontra-guerrillas. And they say they worked hand in hand with Turkish security forces.

Hizbullah emerged in 1985, a year after the Kurdish rebellion started in earnest. The rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), led by Abdullah Ocalan, was Marxist and atheist. The Islamic extremists of Hizbullah vowed to wipe it out. Turkish security forces desperately trying to contain the Kurdish rebellion stood to gain from factional fighting. Everybody in Turkey knows they turned a blind eye to Hizbullah. But how far did it go?

Troubled by the allegations coming out of Batman, the parliament sent a commission to investigate and in 1997 published a damning report, concluding that security forces had supported Hizbullah.

Fikri Saglar, a former MP who served on the forum, said: "The police chief in Batman told us on the record he knew who the Hizbullah militants were. But he said he could do nothing because the armywas protecting them. He also told us the army had given Hizbullah militants some training."

The armed forces are the most powerful institution in the country. When Kuris's murder was uncovered in January, the former president Suleyman Demirel conceded some "forces belonging to the state" may have formed links with Hizbullah, but insisted they acted "illegitimately". Mr Saglar says, for the situation to continue in the face of the parliamentary report, those acting "illegitimately" must have been at a high level within the state.

Plenty of questions remain. Earlier this year news emerged that in 1994 the governor of Batman spent $500,000 on guns - the guns disappeared but Hizbullah stores have been discovered full of guns. Are they the same ones? Why did Hizbullah suddenly turn on Islamist figures in the past 12 months. And why have the security forces chosen now to wipe out the Army of God? The PKK is defeated, and the militants are of no more use to security forces.

Mr Aydin believes he knows. "Now Turkey wants to join the [European Union], and they have all these unsolved murders to account for," he said. "So they shut down Hizbullah, blame the killings on them, and the whole case is closed."

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