October 27, 2016

Turkish army presses crackdown on Kurdish militants, Europe worried over rights

Street vendors take cover as Turkish 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’s military said on Monday it had killed 14 militants in a drive against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the south-east as an envoy from the European parliament denounced what she said were rights abuses by Ankara.

Four PKK militants were killed on Sunday in the Sur district of the mainly Kurdish region’s largest city Diyarbakir, much of which has been under a round-the-clock police curfew since early December, the army said in a statement.

Ten others were killed on Sunday in the Idil district of Sirnak province, neighbouring Syria, it said. A round-the-clock curfew was imposed in some parts of Idil last week as it become a new focus for the security operations.

Violence has surged across southeast Turkey following the breakdown of a two-year ceasefire between Turkish security forces and the PKK last July.

The PKK, which says it is fighting for autonomy for Turkey’s large ethnic Kurdish minority, has sealed off entire districts of some towns and cities in the south-east and declared autonomy, prompting the security forces to step up their operations.

The army also said the bodies of five PKK militants had been found during a search in Cizre, a town by the Syrian border that was the focus of military operations for weeks. Home-made explosives, hand grenades, rifles and a large amount of ammunition were seized, it said.

The PKK, considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, launched a separatist armed rebellion against the Turkish state more than three decades ago and more than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict.


More than 1,000 PKK militants have been killed since December, according to figures from the military and state-run Anadolu Agency. In early November, President Tayyip Erdogan said 2,000 had been killed in operations ‘at home and abroad’.

Rights groups and locals have voiced growing concern about he civilian death toll in the security operations since December. The pro-Kurdish HDP party puts the toll at nearly 160.

Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s Turkey rapporteur who visited Diyarbakir last week, said the violence had to stop.

“On a large scale, there are serious human rights violations taking place and the desperation of many people is getting bigger,” she said in her report, which she posted on Facebook.

“Dialogue must be resumed. We have to do everything to avoid a bloody civil war in Turkey.”

The government denounced her statement, EU Affairs Minister Volkan Bozkir saying it was biased.

“Ms. Piri … does not mention in her text at all the sewerage systems and basements transformed into arsenals by the PKK, the continuous attacks on our security personnel, the damage caused by PKK to towns … or the thousands of real civilians without arms who had to leave their homes because of PKK’s attacks on schools, hospitals and even ambulances,” Bozkir said.

He warned Piri she may have difficulty finding counterparts to speak with if she insisted on such an approach.

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