Thousands of residents flee Silvan amid ongoing conflict

Thousands of residents flee Silvan amid ongoing conflict

Thousands of residents flee Silvan amid ongoing conflict

A photo shows a view of a deserted street of Silvan, southerneastern Turkey, during a curfew following clashes between Turkish forces and outlawed PKK militants on November 10, 2015. AFP Photo

Thousands of residents sought to flee for their lives in the southeastern district of Silvan yesterday, the 10th day of a continuing military operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants.

A sixth curfew since August was declared in three neighborhoods of Silvan, a town of 86,000  about 80 kilometers from Diyarbakır, on Nov. 3. 

“As our President [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan], our Prime Minister [Ahmet Davutoğlu] and our government have been stating, our fight with the terrorist organization will go on until results are obtained,” Interior Minister Selami Altınok told reporters in Ankara on Nov. 12, referring to the PKK. “The operation in our three neighborhoods in Silvan will continue until the cleansing of members of the terror organization there.”

The security forces are attempting to fill in trenches and remove barricades that were established by PKK militants to prevent the police from emtering their neighborhoods.

Up to date, some 10,000 residents have fled Silvan without taking away any of their belongings, Muhittin Kan, chair of Silvan branch of the Union of Associations of Turkish Craftsmen and Artisans, told the Doğan News Agency (DHA) on Nov. 12. 

“We don’t know whether they will come back because most of the houses belonging to them have been damaged,” Kan said.

“The town is under fire. Reinforcements are still being sent here. We have been scattered. Craftsmen will not be able to recover even in the next 20 years,” Kan said, noting that around 100 workplaces had been severely damaged.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ, People’s Democratic Congress (HDK) co-spokesperson and HDP İzmir deputy Ertuğrul Kürkçü, as well as a group of HDP deputies, travelled to Silvan earlier in the day. 

Videos from the event showed Yüksekdağ being hit with a tear gas canister after she and colleagues were doused by water cannon.

“We have witnessed a mob that is bent on killing,” she said after the incident in which she sustained slight injuries. “We had already left the law behind, but there is a move that does not take into account even the slightest criterion of humanity.”

HDP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair İdris Baluken likened the environment in Silvan to “a war,” while underlining that they currently had limited ability to communicate with their deputies who have been in Silvan’s neighborhoods.

Both armored vehicles and helicopters are being used in operations against the three neighborhoods, Baluken told Hürriyet on Nov. 12 as he was speaking in a brief telephone conversation while he was also in Silvan.

“The situation here has been virtually like a war. Communication opportunities have been deactivated. The neighborhood where our three colleagues have been has been under intense fire since yesterday [Nov. 11]. We were able to hold a short call. They said fire was opened at the house in which they are staying. They are talking about a lot of casualties and wounded people. We are concerned,” Baluken said, noting that HDP deputies Nursel Aydoğan, Sibel Yiğitalp and Ayşe Acar Başaran, along with a former HDP deputy, Ayla Akat Ata, are in the area.

One soldier and one police officer were killed in clashes on Nov. 11 with members of the youth wing of the PKK, security sources and the provincial governor’s office said. At least four other soldiers and a policeman were injured in the unrest, according to the same sources. Five PKK militants were also killed in the operation, the Diyarbakir Governor’s Office said in a statement.

The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) released a report covering rights violations committed against civilians from Nov. 3 to Nov. 11. According to the report, six civilians in Silvan were killed by security forces. Meanwhile, according to news reporters after the release of the TİHV report, one more civilian, was killed late on Nov. 11.

The Confederation of Public Sector Trades’ Unions (KESK), meanwhile, targeted the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), calling for an urgent “normalization.”

“Silvan has been besieged by thousands of soldiers, special teams and police officers accompanied by helicopters, Kirpis [armored vehicles] and tanks for the last 10 days. We don’t even know how many people lost their lives and how many people have been wounded,” KESK said in a written statement. “We know from the AKP’s earlier practices where it imposed curfews that very severe human rights violations are being committed in Silvan and even lawmakers are not being let in so as to prevent these violations from being heard.”