Reports of abuse against Kurds in Turkey must be investigated – Lavrov

A woman reacts as she stands in front of a building, which was damaged during the security operations and clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants, in the southeastern town of Cizre in Sirnak province, Turkey March 2, 2016. © Sertac Kayar
Moscow says it is necessary to investigate reports of massive human rights abuse in south-eastern Turkey against Kurdish nationals, the Russian foreign minister said at a news briefing.

“Any reports, particularly those documented ones, about rude and large scale human rights abuse and violations of international humanitarian law must be investigated. There are special international procedures for that,” Sergey Lavrov said, answering RT’s question during a joint press conference in Moscow with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.

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. So far these organizations have only given non-committal replies.

In this regard Sergey Lavrov suggested RT hand over both requests to humanitarian organizations and their replies to the Foreign Ministry.

RT’s requests were based on William Whiteman reports from the primarily Kurdish-populated south-eastern areas, which had to endure Ankara’s vast military operation against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants.

Whiteman and his crew witnessed pictures of terrible devastation, including whole blocks destroyed in the cities of Cizre and Diyarbakir. It resembles the situation in neighboring Syria after five years of the civil war.

The reporter gathered blood-chilling accounts of a brutal massacre of dozens of Kurdish civilians in Cizre, following reports of Turkish troops slaughtering hundreds of civilians trapped in basements there.

Whiteman spoke to witnesses who survived the military offensive and showed the location of the mass killing.

“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Erdogan has destroyed our world. He has burned us,” one female witness said. “Three, four – maybe five hundred people. There were old people, women and children – some as young as 10 years old. They killed a heavily pregnant woman,” the woman added.

Kurds make up between 10 percent and 25 percent of Turkey’s population. In five months of battling the Kurdish insurgency in south-eastern Turkey, from August to December, more than 160 civilians were killed, according to a rights group report.

The death toll includes 29 women, 32 children, and 24 elderly people. One of the victims in the city of Cizre in Sırnak Province was an unborn child, killed by a gunshot to his mother's womb, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) said. Since August 16, Turkish troops have imposed at least 58 curfews in Kurdish regions, disrupting the lives of at least 1.4 million people living in the affected provinces, according to HRFT.

Turkey has claimed it will continue its operations against Kurdish militia, maintaining it was for ensuring peace in the region.

Ankara is currently battling PKK in southeastern Turkey, northern Syria, and Iraq, without receiving any kind of validation of their military action either from Damascus, or from Baghdad. Turkey is violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of both Iraq and Syria, the Russian FM said.

When the latest terror act took place in the Turkish capital, Ankara immediately shifted blame for the attack on the Kurds, Lavrov recalled. “There’ve been no reports about any investigation,” he added.

These accusations were used as a pretext to shell Syrian territories inhabited by Kurds, Lavrov said, calling on the international community to react.

The Russian FM holds Ankara accountable for disrupting international efforts to settle the crisis in Syria.

“Turkey’s actions are, as a matter of fact, disrupting these efforts that are being made, including with the UN Security Council’s approval, on issues of the ceasefire, and issues of delivering humanitarian cargoes, as well as the launch of the political settlement,” Lavrov said.