‘Infants can’t be terrorists, Turkey must explain civilian toll in Kurdish regions’ – French MEP

Buildings, which were damaged during the security operations and clashes between Turkish security forces and Kurdish militants, are seen in the southeastern town of Cizre in Sirnak province, Turkey © Sertac Kayar
Turkey’s crackdown on the Kurdish population has taken a turn for the worse, with growing civilian deaths at the hands of the Turkish military amid a full-scale military operation in the southeast of the country, a French Left Front MEP told RT.

Marie-Christine Vergiat, a French lawmaker from the European United Left-Nordic Green Left, was one of the 18 MEPs to have sent a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, calling for an end to a crackdown in Diyarbakir’s Sur district.

Vergiat said that so far the European Parliament had not received a response, adding that the EU is looking for something more than Turkey’s promises to scale back and to use “appropriate force.”

Left-wing MEPs are demanding more information about what is happening in Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated regions.

"The situation has been worsening since July, with over 20 cities put under curfew,” Vergiat said. “The European Parliament is scheduled to send a delegation to Turkey and I hope more evidence is gathered on this issue.”

The harrowing example of a populated area turned into a warzone is the southeastern town of Cizre, where Ankara carried out its military operation against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels back in February. At the time, Turkish state television announced that 60 “terrorists” were killed in a building basement.

An RT crew traveled to Cizre in early March to film the devastation brought on the town. RT’s William Whiteman collected horrifying accounts of an alleged massacre of dozens of Kurdish civilians in Cizre. According to one witness, some 150 people were allegedly burned to death.

RT has submitted the footage shot in Cizre to Human Rights Watch, MSF International and MSF Middle East (Médecins Sans Frontières), the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross), the OHCHR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights) and Amnesty International. The channel asked if the organizations in question are planning to investigate the claims of Turkish forces’ atrocities against civilians there, and if any statements will be made.

“The footage that we are receiving from [Cizre is] shocking,” Vergiat said. “It seems that it is happening in some Syrian town, not in Turkey, which is presenting itself as a democratic country.”
It is likely that around 100-150 people have died in Cizre, including women and children, she said, adding that “infants could not be terrorists.”

Vergiat argued that even if Turkey is fighting terrorism, it cannot use the same tactics and weapons it would have used in a conventional war.

Turkey launched its military operation against PKK militants in the southeastern part of the country in July 2015. The offensive broke a ceasefire agreement that had held for two years.

Turkey has maintained that it is targeting militants, despite reports of growing numbers of civilian deaths. Amnesty International reported in January that at least 150 civilians, women and children among them, had been killed in the Turkish military operation, saying that some 200,000 people had been put at risk and were being denied access to services due to strict curfews.

Vergiat said that the reports of killings of civilians by the Turkish military need to be properly investigated. “The Turkish government needs to justify its position,” she said.

Getting rid of the curfews would be the “minimum requirement” that Turkey would need to fulfill, the MEP added. “We are worried” that so many curfews are still in place, including in Sur", she said.

The curfews end up trapping pockets of the population in certain parts of the city, making them inaccessible, which prevents access to medicine and food, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

“There were instances when dead bodies were left on the streets for a few days because local authorities did not have access to the areas and could not pick up the dead to give them a proper burial,” Vergiat said.