The pain of a PKK attack that left 33 civilians dead in a village in eastern Türkiye’s Erzincan province remains as fresh as ever for the residents 31 years after the fact.

PKK terrorists raided Başbağlar village, which sits 220 kilometers (136.7 miles) east of Erzincan, on the night of July 5, 1993. They rounded up women near a stream, looted gold and jewelry from their homes and set fire to the rest.

The terrorists burned five people alive in their homes and later corralled 28 men from a mosque and executed them all by a firing squad in the town square.

Başbağlar residents are set to hold a commemoration ceremony with state officials and political party representatives on Friday for the 33 killed that day.

The villagers are still looking for justice and demanding the perpetrators be apprehended and held to account.

Ali Akarpınar, who survived the massacre among the wounded, recalled how many visitors were coming into the village that day for the summer.

“It was around maghrib (evening prayer in Islam) that the PKK terrorists stormed into the village,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA).

“They took us men from the mosque and forced the women to the stream while other terrorists were pillaging, looting and torching our houses. They first preached propaganda to us, then showered us with hundreds of bullets.”

In the PKK fire, only Akarpınar and two other elderly people survived.

“When I returned two months later, our village was in ruins,” he said. “They wanted to erase our village from history.”

Akarpınar still carries a bullet inside his left leg as a token of that day.

Another villager, Ismail Ogün Kuruçaylı, who survived the attack by hiding from the terrorists, said the pain refreshes every July.

Kuruçaylı, who was 21 at the time, arrived at Başbağlar a day before the attack while he was on leave from his military service.

He remembered the PKK terrorists going door to door to round up the men of the village by name. “I was hiding in our house and saw them through the window. It was a coordinated event,” he said.

Kuruçaylı lost his brother-in-law and cousins in the massacre.

He said the PKK terrorists burned down nearly 190 of the 210 homes in the Başbağlar village.

“We find the fight against terrorism very appropriate right now and thankfully, progress has been made,” he said.

Another villager and Başbağlar’s current headman, Ali Akpınar, was in Istanbul when he lost his father and brother in the massacre.

“When I came here, all the houses were on fire. I gathered what was left behind,” he recalled.

“Türkiye has come far in recent years. Now it’s the terrorists looking for places to hide.”

The PKK was established in the Turkish capital, Ankara, in 1974 as a Marxist-Leninist organization by mostly left-leaning Kurdish students led by Abdullah Öcalan. The group initially sought to establish a joint independent entity in Kurdish-dominated areas of Türkiye, Syria, Iraq and Iran, calling it “Kurdistan.”

Their armed attacks began in August 1984 in the southeastern Siirt and Hakkari provinces. In its attempts to seize land in the region by spreading fear, the PKK did not hesitate to kill those who opposed the terrorist group.

Throughout the 1990s, its massacre peaked as the group didn’t discriminate between security forces and civilians in rural raids or urban attacks.

Turkish security forces regularly conduct counterterrorism operations in Türkiye’s eastern and southeastern provinces, where the PKK has attempted to establish a strong presence and bases.

These cities that were once synonymous with the PKK violence have been cleared of terrorists in the past decade and authorities have been carrying out infrastructure work to encourage returns.

The forces also conduct cross-border operations in northern Iraq, a region where the PKK terrorists have hideouts and bases from which they carry out attacks on Türkiye.

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