A Turkish Kurd fighter who commanded a unit battling ISIS extremists in Syria was buried Sunday in Istanbul two months after his death in clashes, amid anger over the delay in bringing his body home.
Thousands of supporters filled the Gazi district of Istanbul — a Kurdish and left-wing stronghold — to pay their last respects to Aziz Guler who commanded a Kurdish unit known as the United Freedom Forces (BOG) inside Syria, an AFP photographer reported.
According to Turkish media reports, Guler was killed in clashes with ISIS extremists on Sept. 21 in northern Syria.
Kurdish activists had angrily accused the Turkish authorities of deliberately refusing to give permission for his body to be returned over the border, resulting in the two-month delay.
Mourners at the funeral shouted slogans against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well as “Aziz Guler will never die!” and “We promise Aziz there will be a revolution!”
Some waved flags with the face of the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) Abdullah Ocalan while others brandished pictures of Guler — a left-wing activist — with the hammer-and-sickle and red and yellow Kurdish colours.
MPs from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) also attended the funeral, reports said.
The Turkish government has been deeply troubled by the activity of armed Kurdish militias in northern Syria, fearing they will try and carve out an autonomous region that could try and unite with Turkey’s own Kurdish minority.
There are several militia units supporting the anti-ISIS campaign of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which Turkey considers to be an arm of the PKK.
The HDP and Kurdish activists meanwhile have bitterly accused the government of not assisting in the repatriation of slain fighters and failing to fully counter the threat of the ISIS extremists.