Turkey Declares Yet Another Curfew In Kurdish District
A local governor in Diyarbakir’s Bismil district in North Kurdistan (southeastern Turkey) imposed on Sunday a curfew in neighbourhoods Ulutürk, Tekel, Dumlupınar and Fırat, reportedly in order to “ensure the security of the people” and find and detain “terrorists”. The curfew was suspended on Monday but reinstated yesterday and is now in effect for to the entire Bismil district.
It is likely that Bismil residents will witness a repetition of the events that took place in Şirnak’s Cizre district earlier this month when Turkish authorities declared a curfew that lasted 8 days and resulted in the death of at least 20 civilians according to Kurdish representatives from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
Curfews have been imposed in Kurdish cities following an escalation of prolonged tension between the Turkish state and Kurds fueled by Turkey’s staunch opposition against Kurdish autonomy in northern Syria including isolating the Kurdish city of Kobane when it was besieged by Islamic State; the continuous lack of greater Kurdish rights; and the fact that the Turkish government is closing its eyes to the movement of Islamic State terrorists across its border. The escalation was ignited by a suicide bombing at a cultural center in Suruç on July 20, 2015 that killed 33 young people which the Islamic State took responsibility for. PKK, the Kurdish armed resistance group in Turkey, killed two Turkish police officers as an act of revenge and just a few days later the Turkish military started bombing PKK bases and villages in the Qandil Mountains, killing civilians.
Critics say that the escalation in violence is a way for Turkey’s president Erdogan to rekindle nationalist sentiments among Turkish citizens in a bid to win back the votes that he lost to the HDP during the June election in the upcoming snap elections scheduled for November 1. He hopes to win a majority of votes that can help secure him greater presidential power.
During the siege of Cizre, journalists who managed to get access to the city or to activists and Kurdish politicians inside the city have reported about civilians who could not take injured family members to the hospital due to the curfew and who had to cover their bodies with bottles of ice when they died as they were not allowed to be buried.
Bozo Bilal Acar, head of the NGO Şemikan Union, was in Cizre during the siege and he wrote the following about what he saw:
Municipal staff are not allowed to go out because of the curfew. They want people to be ravaged by thirst and fatigue. Some water pumps are damaged by the bombings and can’t be repaired. We hear heavy gunfire non stop. They’re scanning neighborhoods and snipers are shooting women and children especially. Dozens of civilians have been killed. Just last night, government snipers killed three children.
Civilians are not allowed to be taken to the hospital. Many injured and sick people died because of this. One of them is 10 year old Cemile Cizir Çağırga who was shot by government’s snipers while she was playing in front of her house on the 6th of September in the neighborhood Cudi. Because of the curfew she was not allowed to be taken by an ambulance and she blead to death. Her parents were forced to keep her in the freezer in two days until her body with difficulties was managed to be brought to the morgue.
[…] we are continuously in touch with civilians and injured. Until today nearly 25 closeby civilians have been killed. Half of them are women and children, among them a 35 days old infant. How can they be terrorists? I’ve been here 7 days and have not seen anyone carrying a weapon.
[…] During last 8 days homes are cut off from power and electricity, water and telephones. There’s no food left in the houses. Bakeries grocery stores can not open. Garbage collection is not allowed. Children began to suffer from diarrhea. Disease outbreaks can occur anytime in the city.
Bozo Acar wrote about the state of Cizre after the curfew was lifted, showing that harm was also inflicted upon the district’s residents afterwards:
[…] When we reached Nur neighborhood the views we encountered were unbelievable. Thousands of empty shells in the streets, traces of bombs and heavy weapons in the houses. We understood the gravity of what had been experienced here first when we navigated the streets.
Without exception, each house had traces of bombs and weapons. Electrical transformers and water pipes were damaged from shelling and the heavy weapons and had become unusable. The neighborhoods were not provided with electricity nor water for eight days. Despite this, we were met by people cheering and ululating in the streets in the neighborhood.
During our investigation, a bomb that had been thrown by the police but that hadn’t exploded suddenly exploded right around the corner injuring one child, one woman and a man. The child lost his hands and feet which was caught on camera. We received the information that the police had placed grenade launchers as traps in the neighborhood before leaving.
It was not long after the curfew in Bismil was announced that reports emerged that an 8-year-old girl, Elif Şimşek, had been killed. Now Firat News Agency writes that 22-year-old Agit Yıldız, 19-year-old Halil Kurtiş and another child, Berat Güzel, have been shot and killed by Turkish police.
— BanuGuven (@banuguven) September 27, 2015
Bir çocuk, bir yavru daha… #ElifŞimşek
— Ayla AKAT (@Ayla_Akat) September 27, 2015
After the declaration of another curfew in Bismil, district of Diyarbakır, 2 civilians killed, one of them the 8-year-old #ElifŞimşek
— Amed Dicle (@AmedDcle) September 27, 201
Turkish authorities kept Kurdish politicians, media and observers from entering the besieged areas in Sirnak and will most likely do the same in Bismil. We therefore call on the world to keep a close eye on the Kurdish areas under siege and put pressure on the Turkish state to prevent the killing of more innocent lives.