Turkish military crackdown & curfews force 200,000 civilians flee Kurdish southeast – report

Riot police use a water cannon to disperse Kurdish demonstrators during a protest against the curfew in Sur district, in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey, December 22, 2015 © Sertac Kayar
Escalating violence, ongoing clashes, curfews and brutal crackdowns on Kurdish nationals have squeezed hundreds of thousands of people out of Turkey’s southeast after Ankara launched a military offensive against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

Some 200,000 people have been forced to leave the areas of settlement in Turkey’s south as a result of a special operation which Ankara launched against the outlawed PKK after uneasy ceasefire collapsed in July, Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reports

The region is undergoing its second largest migration wave since the 1990s, the publication writes. In the Diyarbakir Province’s Sur district alone “tens of thousands” were forced to flee their homes since Ankara imposed the latest strict curfew early December, CNN Turk reported, citing the opposition Republican Peoples Party (CHP).

The area of the Turkish military operation resembles a warzone, local citizens are telling media outlets, while photos and videos posted online show homes, mosques, stores and other buildings badly damaged by clashes. People are saying there is neither water nor electricity supply anymore. Schools are closed and even finding food has become a problem. 

READ MORE: 16 people die during 11-day Turkish army crackdown on Kurdish forces in Cizre – report

While the official reports claim that the army has eliminated 168 militants over the last week alone, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said that at least 31 civilians had been killed in the violence. Meanwhile Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that “well over 100” deaths of Kurdish women and children have been recorded over the past six months in southeastern Turkey.

The crackdown in the town of Cirze on the Syrian border and other cities, including Diyarbakir and Silopi, escalated in mid-December. Turkish army tanks deployed in Cizre have been shelling buildings in Cizre neighborhoods as seen in the videos posted online. Supposedly targeting the PKK fighters, the shellings reportedly killed at least 16 civilians, according to a local journalist who spoke with RT.

READ MORE: Prominent Kurdish lawyer shot dead in southeast Turkey

Clashes in Cirze between Turkish police and Kurdish activists continue with law enforcement dispersing demonstrations using tear gas and water cannon in the town that remains under 24-hour curfew.

Fierce protests also continue in the region’s largest city, Diyarbakir, where police attacked a rally gathered for the funeral of a local activist killed in protests, another video shows.

An attempt by activists in Istanbul this week to protest the crackdown on Kurds has also been suppressed by Turkish authorities, with police deploying tear gas against several hundred protesters in Taksim Square.

READ MORE: Istanbul police fire tear gas on protesters rallying over crackdown in Kurdish areas

Ankara maintains its operation is targeting “separatists” and “terrorists,” with Turkish authorities stating their determination to get rid of the PKK once and for all.

“The fight against separatist terror organizations will continue until the end without hesitation,” Turkish President Recep Tayipp Erdogan said Wednesday.

Up to 10,000 Turkish security forces and army servicemen last week launched a hardcore all-out offensive across the country’s southeast with Kurdish popular majority, aiming to root out the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK confronts Turkish military both in Turkey and on the territory of Northern Iraq, where Turkish forces conducts unauthorized operations against units of the PKK.

READ MORE: Turkish jets strike Kurdish positions in Iraq amid rising tension between Ankara & Baghdad

The warring between the two sides have only been growing ever since the two-year ceasefire agreement between Turkish authorities and the PKK collapsed in July following a series of bloody terror acts targeting Kurds. Islamic State terror group basing in Syria and Iraq, where the Kurdish Peshmerga armed militia has been successfully opposing the terrorists, took responsibility for the attacks the Turkish special services failed to prevent.

The Kurds started armed struggle for greater autonomy in southeastern Turkey back in 1984. Turkey’s conflict with PPK, considered as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and NATO, that has lasted for more than 30 years has claimed lives of about 45,000 people.