Operations expected in southeast amid deadly clashes, curfews and exodus
DİYARBAKIR / ŞIRNAK
DHA PhotoAs deadly violence continues in several towns in Turkey’s southeast, many schools stayed closed on Dec. 14 as large numbers of people left their homes, amid reports that the security forces were preparing a large-scale operation against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Two people were killed in pre-curfew clashes between protesters and security forces in Diyarbakır’s central Sur district, while two others were wounded.
Clashes broke out after the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) tried to stage a rally in the town to protest the curfews in Sur, where the head of the Bar Association, Tahir Elçi was shot dead on Nov. 28. Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd as masked groups tried to block the roads with barricades.
Most shops remained closed in the city while public transport was halted and garbage collection was stopped.
As in other towns in the region where clashes have continued amid curfews, many students did not go to school in Sur.
Elsewhere, many people left their homes in the towns of Cizre and Silopi in the province of Şırnak before the announced start of another curfew scheduled for 11 p.m. on Dec. 14.
Military transport planes landed at Şırnak’s Şerafettin Elçi Airport, unloading soldiers and special forces.
A number of locals loaded their belongings onto vehicles to reach the center of Şırnak or cross to other provinces. Many struggled to leave Cizre on foot as PKK militants attempt to prevent the exodus, seizing the car keys of some trying to leave.
Anadolu Agency reported that PKK militants fired at a car that refused to stop, shooting 15-year-old Mevlüde İğdi in the head.
The biggest exodus from Cizre was from the town’s neighborhoods of Cudi, Nur, Sur and Yafes, where militants have maintained ditches for weeks against security forces.
Other people who decided to remain in the town shopped to stock up on their needs for the upcoming curfew, which has no fixed duration.
“Those who have the opportunity have left the town. Those who couldn’t are stocking food in their houses,” Doğan quoted one resident as saying.
Teachers in Silopi and Cizre received on Dec. 13 text messages from the authorities, saying that they could leave the towns “for professional training” in their hometowns.
Sakine Esen Yılmaz, the secretary-general of the teachers’ union Eğitim-Sen, said the education directorates in the towns of Silopi and Cizre “has merely told teachers to withdraw because an operation is coming.”
The gates of some schools were closed with padlocks.
Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu told Hürriyet last week that the duty hours of the medical staff in places where curfews are declared had been increased to one week from 24 hours to avoid any inconveniences while personnel will now sleep at hospitals.
While declaring the curfew, Şırnak Gov. Ali İhsan Su said all support would be provided to citizens during the coming period.
In the Dargeçit district of Mardin, a curfew was declared Dec. 12. An operation against the PKK continued in the town on Dec. 14, as authorities also declared a curfew in four neighborhoods in Nusaybin, starting from 4 p.m.