Turkish gov’t, HDP at odds over lack of ambulance service to civilians stranded in Cizre
AA photoThe Turkish government and the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have given vastly different accounts of the plight of 28 civilians sheltering in a cellar in violence-hit Cizre in the southeastern province of Şırnak.
“This morning, I spoke with our chief physician in Cizre and our official in charge of emergency services. Of 1,693 calls from Cizre, services have been provided for 1,290,” Health Minister Mehmet Müezzinoğlu told reporters on Jan. 28.
“We have had two ambulances on permanent standby at the 84th crossroads for four days. This is a distance of 400-500 meters [from the cellar]. They could have brought the wounded such a short distance if they wanted to, but they do not care about the wounded. They only care about creating a perception in the public about the wounded,” Müezzinoğlu added.
Rights groups and locals have voiced growing concern about the civilian death toll in security operations against militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its youth branch, the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), since last month.
According to information obtained by Emma Sinclair-Webb, the Turkey director of Human Rights Watch, and announced on Jan. 27, four of the civilians in the cellar in Cizre have died and three are in a critical condition.
As of Jan. 27, three HDP parliamentarians went on hunger strike and were staging a sit-in at the offices of the Interior Ministry to force the authorities to send ambulances.
HDP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair İdris Baluken, HDP Deputy Co-Chair Meral Danış Beştaş, and HDP Urfa deputy Osman Baydemir, who have gone on hunger strike, released a joint statement on Jan. 28 saying that one of the wounded civilians in the cellar had died earlier in the day.
“All kinds of obstructions are going on under the pretext of clashes, including opening fire at ambulances,” the HDP deputies stated.
“That is increasing our concerns about the numbers of wounded and the dead bodies. We have observed that a war apparatus, which acts autonomously and which doesn’t listen to any instructions, is in charge in Cizre. The lives of all the wounded people and civilians are in danger and this situation is under the responsibility of the government,” the deputies said, calling on Ankara to “urgently fulfill its responsibility” in order not to “overlook more deaths.”
Rights groups and a doctors’ association earlier called for ambulances to be allowed to rescue the wounded.
The local governor’s office had claimed that the emergency services were unable to enter the area because of the PKK.
“Our ambulances have been sent to the closest [safe] location and have asked for any wounded people to be brought to this location. But despite all our efforts our call has been ignored,” the Şırnak Governor’s Office stated.