Rights fall victim to fight against terror in Turkey

Rights fall victim to fight against terror in Turkey

Turkey has been in a fight against terrorism for many years. This campaign changed its dimension and nature since the summer of 2015, after the June 7 election.

At first, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) announced that its dialogue process with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), which had brought about a relative silencing of weapons since the autumn of 2012, was over. That was followed by a resumption of terrorist attacks on July 20.

Secondly, the outlawed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) started to carry out suicide attacks inside Turkey. ISIL had actually bombed an election rally of the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Diyarbakır in June, but that was not a suicide attack. In the Suruç suicide attack on July 20, ISIL killed 34 people. 

On the same night, the Turkish military started to hit both PKK and ISIL targets across the border in Syria and Iraq, and three days later ISIL killed a Turkish soldier patrolling the Syria border.

ISIL has since escalated its attacks inside Turkey. In the most fatal terrorist attack in Turkey’s history, ISIL suicide bombers killed 103 people in Ankara on Oct. 10, 2015. This week on Jan. 12, near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, another ISIL bomber killed 10 German tourists. The next day, three ISIL suspects were arrested in the touristic resort of Antalya; they were carrying Russian passports and one of them was on Russia’s “wanted” list over terrorist activities.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced on Jan. 14 that Turkish artillery had killed 200 ISIL militants in Syria and Iraq over the last two days - since the attack in Istanbul. Indeed, Turkey is an active member of the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition, having opened up its main operating İncirlik air base, from which German war planes also carry out missions.

On the PKK front, it was understood soon in the summer of 2015 that the PKK had changed the nature and dimension of its attacks. Its success in defying ISIL attacks on the Kurdish-populated Syrian town of Kobane (just across the border from Suruç) was thanks to U.S. air support and artillery support by Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) troops who had crossed over from Turkey. But the PKK thought it could copy the form of autonomy it has established in Kobane (under the circumstances of a civil war in Syria) in towns and districts in Turkey where HDP municipalities are in charge. Militants then raised barricades and dug trenches around districts that they claimed control of, prompting the government to impose curfews and leading to violent clashes that have killed hundreds of people, including civilians caught in the crossfire.

The PKK further escalated its acts of terrorism this week with an attack on Jan. 14 in the Çınar district of Diyarbakır province, in which six people, including three children, were killed. In Nusaybin, militants threw a noise bomb into the playground of a school during a brake between two lessons, revealing a brand new tactic.

The rights of people in zones affected by terror attacks are being heavily violated, including their right to live, to shelter in peace, to access health facilities, to access schools, and even to access food and water. Media coverage from the region is similar to coverage from a war zone. Many residents of those areas have abandoned their homes, some of which have been destroyed in the clashes. Military units have entered urban areas with heavy weaponry. In response to this worsening situation, a “peace petition” was signed by 1,128 scholars demanding an end to clashes by accepting the demands of the “Kurdish political movement,” but it has recently been slammed by the government as an example of “treason.” 

The European Court of Human Rights, meanwhile, has refused to issue a ruling on Ankara’s implementation of curfews in many southeastern towns. However, visiting Turkey yesterday U.K. Foreign Minister Philip Hammond told the Hürriyet Daily News that the Turkish government has the “legitimate right” to defend itself against the PKK attacks, which he said must stop.

Indeed, acts of terrorism and the fight against them are not only taking people’s lives – they are also taking away people’s rights.