Turkey’s HDP calls for end to demolitions, sieges, ‘illegal’ round-the-clock curfews
REUTERS photoHolding both the president and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) responsible for “destruction and suffering,” the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has called for an urgent end to “illegal round-the-clock curfews” in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish-populated provinces of the country.
“As part of a larger war policy, round-the-clock curfews are still going on in Kurdish provinces despite their illegality. Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in months-long curfews in the Şırnak city center and 22 other districts. While armed clashes have stopped in all these districts, curfews are still in effect for full days in some districts, while at night in some others,” Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, the co-chairs of the HDP, said in a joint statement dated June 14 and released on June 15.
“[President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan-AKP rule is directly responsible for all this destruction and suffering. The crimes against humanity committed by them are piling up with every passing day. The main reason behind the government’s refusal to lift round-the-clock curfews is its aim to completely destroy these civilian settlements,” Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ added.
“The ongoing round-the-clock curfews, blockades and destruction in Kurdish cities and towns should be immediately stopped. All the obstacles that prevent residents from safely returning to their homes should be removed,” stated the two leaders of the Kurdish-problem focused HDP, the third largest party at Turkey’s parliament.
The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe (CoE) recently concluded that curfews imposed in various districts and neighborhoods in eastern and southeastern Turkey since August 2015 are “not constitutional.”
Turkey’s conflict with militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), said to have left more than 5,000 people dead since July, has also destroyed at least 6,000 buildings that will cost up to 1 billion lira ($340 million) to rebuild, according to a government estimate.
Large swathes of towns in the mainly Kurdish southeast have been devastated by daily shelling, blasts and gunfire in battles that are still raging, even as President Erdoğan says the PKK is in its “death throes.”
‘Massacre of towns’
“Although government authorities announced the end of armed clashes in Şırnak, Nusaybin and Sur, the demolition is still going on. These districts are being demolished with bulldozers and earthmovers. Most of the citizens who want to return to their homes cannot do so. Many people cannot even recognize their homes and neighborhoods, as the majority of houses and streets are unrecognizable because of destruction. The places of some streets and houses have even been deleted from neighborhood maps. The buildings and shops that remained intact during the clashes are now being demolished and burned down,” Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ also said.
“The state authorities have declared such areas to be high-risk, which allows them to be expropriated, paving the way to raze whole districts to the ground. After the end of ‘operations’ in Yüksekova, the round-the-clock curfew continued and the town has been destroyed. The destruction during the months-long sieges in Şırnak, Nusaybin and Sur has turned into a ‘massacre of towns.’ Around 2,000 citizens are struggling to survive in tents at the foot of Mount Cudi due to the ongoing three-month-long siege in Şırnak,” they added.
As fighting continued, the government of new Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said 6,320 buildings, or 11,000 dwellings, had been destroyed in five areas alone: Sur in Diyarbakır, Silopi, Cizre and Idil in Şırnak province and Yüksekova in Hakkari.
“We now face a process of planning reconstruction and repairing damaged houses,” said Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş after a cabinet meeting in late May, estimating the cost of rebuilding in the areas at 855 million liras ($290 million).
At the same time, following a party meeting AKP spokesperson Yasin Aktay also told reporters that Turkey now faced “a period of social restoration to deal with the side effects of security operations.”
‘Solidarity networks’ and removed Ramadan tents
However, Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ said state officials were blocking the delivery of key aid in besieged areas of the southeast.
“The people and institutions offering help and relief to those who could return to these towns face many difficulties created by state officials, who are obstructing the delivery of food or other items of humanitarian aid sent to these towns by various solidarity networks. For example, in Yüksekova, the district governor removed the tents that were built to distribute food for fast-breaking during Ramadan. The people whose houses were destroyed have even been banned from putting up tents in their backyard,” the HDP co-chairs said.
Some 338 civilians, including 78 children, have died in the conflict since last summer and curfews have violated the rights 1.6 million people, Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation (TİHV) said last month.
The health minister has also estimated that around 355,000 people have fled conflict-hit areas to other areas of Turkey since clashes began last summer.