Military tanks roaming in the streets of Diyarbakır and Şırnak

Military tanks roaming in the streets of Diyarbakır and Şırnak

Published by Kurdish Question, 22 December 2015

Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) recently published a note on imposed curfews in predominantly Kurdish districts since August 2015. According to their report, a total of 52 curfews have been declared by the Turkish state in 7 provinces, effecting almost 1.3 million citizens.

The longest duration’s of the open-ended and round-the-clock curfews include Nusaybin in Mardin (14 days), Silvan in Diyarbakır (12 days), and Cizre in Şırnak (8 days).

Curfews are imposed in districts which predominantly support the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). In November 2015 elections, 93,2% of the citizens of Cizre voted for HDP, followed by 89,4% in Nusaybin, and 87,9% in Silvan.

Images that surfaced after a 9-day-long curfew and operations were lifted in Sur district of Diyarbakır reveal the extent of atrocity in the region. Photos show civilian dwellings burnt down, and destroyed with bullets. The historical Kursunlu Mosque, which is in the UNESCO’s cultural heritage list, is among the severely damaged buildings. A new curfew has been imposed in Sur 17 hours after it was lifted.

Curfews and operations, which are mainly held in urban districts, severely effect the civilians on many levels. Not only civilian deaths have been reported, but also curfews restrict the entrance of food supplies to the cities, and many citizens cannot access health services. All local economic and educational facilities are disrupted due to the curfews. During the 10-day-long curfew in Cizre in September, the body of Cemile Çağırga (13) was kept in refrigerator for 10 days after being killed by shrapnel hitting her home in Cizre. During the same curfew, Meryem Sune (53), mother of 7, was killed and her body was kept in cold storage of a poulterer for two days until her relatives were allowed burial.

After the recent operations in Sur, thousands had to leave their homes to move to safer places. Earlier this week, hundreds of teachers fled town to escape from the upcoming curfews and operations in Şırnak after receiving a text message from the Ministry of Education, informing them that they will be considered on “administrative leave”. Many other teachers, however, decided to stay in town instead of running away, sending solidarity messages with the Kurdish civilians suffering from the state operations. Serhat Ugur, the co-chair of educator’s union Eğitim Sen in Şırnak, reported on the situation in the region: “We are living atrocities many times worse than the 1990’s. However, I am still going to school, facing all obstacles. But what kind of hatred, what kind of preparation is this that we are seeing, I am unable to comprehend. What will they say to this population tomorrow? They keep repeating that the main reason for these assaults is for the defense of the country and “all else is detail.” We are seeing a level of military transfer to the region never seen before.”

Turmoil in the region rekindled after several predominantly Kurdish districts declared self-governance as a response to Turkish state’s airstrikes on PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) camps in Northern Iraq, an attack first declared to be against ISIS cells in Syria. Both these operations and consequent bomb attacks against pro-peace rallies efficaciously ended the two years of ceasefire between Turkey and PKK. Kurdish youth organization YDG-H has been digging up ditches and building barricades at city entrances for self-defense. Turkish government grounds its curfews and military operations on closing these ditches and “clearing up the area from PKK terrorists”. A video by Jin News Agency (JINHA) shows local women and children re-building the barricades destroyed by military forces, as one local woman explains why: “They say youth (YDG-H) is clashing, and there are PKK militants among them. There is no one here but God, Prophet Mohammad and us. Only women and children. They [Turkish state] kill our youth, they kill us, they kill children, and they kill our animals. They do whatever they want. We build [the barricades], they destroy them, and we build again. Because we are afraid. We are protecting ourselves. I swear it is not PKK. We are the ones building these barricades.”

YDG-H released a statement as a response to calls upon them to fill up the ditches, stating these calls “have no political value in this state of intense attacks”. YDG-H also claimed that Turkish state attacks civilian districts for the purpose of deserting the region, and that “calling for filling up the ditches means asking for Kurdish youth to surrender to colonialist Turkish state”. An anarchist member of Kurdish Youth described the structure of self-governance, and called upon international solidarity: “Behind their revolutionary rhetoric of refusing to accept unjust state institutions, these are modest and practical attempts at a social solidarity organizing that will remedy the evils and alienation caused by the state criminalization and punishment of ethnic minorities. Most of these “self-governments” are in working class neighbourhoods and are organised by residents themselves, who are already excluded from most of state services.”

He also draws attention to the new governmental strategies to restrain the Kurdish popular movement: “The new model of oppression is based on targeting ‘the problematic neighborhoods and towns’ to destroy the established Kurdish solidarity and political organizations. By this, the state aims to terrorize the rest of the Kurdish neighborhoods and cities into abandoning their emotional and political ties with the Kurdish movement – in hopes of later integrating them into the AKP’s Islamic capitalism project, all with the help of reactionary and Islamist Kurdish organizations active in Bakur.”

Kurdistan Democratic People’s Initiative has called upon the Kurdish people and democratic public opinion of Turkey to turn all western cities into an area of resistance in solidarity with the people suffering from state terror: “The fascist AKP government has started an all-out onslaught within the scope of its plan to massacre Kurdistan people and oppress all democratic circles in Turkey. Ongoing isolation of Leader Apo (Abdullah Öcalan), arrests of journalists, murder of Tahir Elçi, execution of youths, bombing of mosques and systematic massacre of the Kurdish people are all a result of this genocidal policy. Yet, everyone should know very well that Kurdistan will be a graveyard for fascism thanks to the resistance led by Kurdish youths and women.”

Selahattin Demirtaş, co-chair of HDP, declared his party’s stance on the situation: “HDP told what Turkey’s regime should be in its party program, electoral declaration, and in parliament, and that regime is self-government. Our party stands by Kurdish people against the war waged by AKP (Justice and Development Party) Government.” Referring to the failed foreign policies of the AKP government, Demirtaş blamed the ruling party for its atrocities against Kurdish people: “The Prime Minister and the President becoming as timid as a mouse after challenging Putin, the PM and the President sending troops to Mosul and withdrawing them faintheartedly after challenging the world, the PM and the President coming to terms with Israel in exchange for $20 million after playing the tough by ‘One Minute’ outburst; do you become tough people when it comes to Kurds?” Curfews and operations currently continue in Sur, Cizre and Silopi districts. HDP Şırnak Deputy Ferhat Encü: “Military and police forces enter the neighborhoods on foot.”