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12 Mar, 2016 09:22

Chilling revelations: Diyarbakır, city of the dead and missing (RT EXCLUSIVE)

An RT crew has visited Diyarbakır, the unofficial capital of the Turkish Kurds, to throw light on the gruesome consequences of Turkey’s crackdown on the Kurdish population. RT's William Whiteman talked to the relatives of one of the victims.

RT took an exclusive look into the mass killings of civilians allegedly committed by the Turkish military, filming the mourning of those who lost their loved ones as a result of the ongoing crackdown.

Friday prayers in Diyarbakir have also become a manifestation of the deep divide between the locals and the Turkish government.

In a further effort to quash Kurdish descent, Turkish authorities now require imams to read government-approved sermons. Thousands of local Kurds are protesting this move by boycotting the city’s main mosque and holding prayers in a nearby park.

The imam speaks in both Kurdish and Turkish, condemning the government’s actions.

RT’s William Whiteman witnessed Turkish military helicopters flying overhead in Diyarbakir, while the explosions and gunfire of the continuing military operation could be heard.

In the city’s Sur district, Turkish security services have continuously waged a military operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliated groups, as part of the ongoing government operation across the region.

Whiteman spoke to the weeping mother of 17-year-old girl Rozerin Cukur. She was killed in a military bombardment of Sur while she was visiting the district with friends in early January. With access to the area now cut off by the fighting, her body has never been recovered. Sadly, she is one of many such cases.

Rozerin’s father, Mustafa, could be found at a nearby memorial for the missing dead. 

“We saw the news of her death reported on state TV and the internet. The reports included Rozerin’s ID information, discovered beside her body,” the father told RT.

Through hunger striking, the families here have managed to pressure the government into returning just two of the missing bodies. But the condition they were in was appalling.

“Of the bodies that have been recovered, parts of their flesh and internal organs had been eaten by a stray dog,” Mustafa said. “The bodies were riddled with thousands of bullet holes. It seems that the military continued to shoot them long after they were dead.”

“They were only identifiable through DNA testing,” Mustafa claimed.

RT spoke to the co-presidents of the local Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) branch about the plight of these families.

“Of the local residents killed in Sur, 14 bodies are yet to be recovered. They have been lying in the open for a long time, first under the siege, and now under the curfew,” Ömer Önen, co-president of HDP office of Diyarbakir, told RT. “Without the bodies, the families have been unable to hold funerals.”

Önen explained that by denying the people in Diyarbakir the right to give their loved ones a traditional Islamic burial, the Turkish government is violating human rights and the sanctity of religious traditions.

Every Saturday in Diyarbakir, the families of people who disappeared during the peak of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict in the 1980s and ‘90s gather to demand information on their missing loved ones. Now they are being joined by the families of new victims, with Rozerin’s parents among them.

Previously RT showed exclusive footage from the city of Cizre, destroyed by Turkish government forces during an anti-Kurdish military operation that ended there only two days ago.

The Turkish government offensive on the mostly Kurdish southeastern regions of the country was launched back in July of 2015 with strict 24-hour curfews imposed on several Kurdish towns.

On Friday RT requested comments on the ongoing anti-Kurdish crackdown in Turkey from aid groups and rights organizations, such as HRW, MSF International, the ICRC, the OHCHR, and Amnesty International. There has been no answer so far.

In the meantime, Turkey has claimed it will continue its operations against Kurdish militia – to ensure peace in the region.

“We will continue our operations to eliminate the PKK. This is necessary to ensure peace in the region,” said Efkan Ala, the Turkish interior minister.

Washington says Ankara has the right to fight terrorists, but only within international law.

“While we have certainly acknowledged Turkey’s right to defend itself against terrorists, and the PKK is a terrorist organization that we have recognized [as such], we have also, and I’ve said it many times from this podium, called on [Turkey] to do so in accordance with the international law and obligations that they [Turkey] have,” US State Department spokesman John Kirby said.