Turkey’s war on the Kurds

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Kurdish youth run through cloud of teargas in Amed.

[The following statement was released by the Kurdish National Congress (KNK) Australia on January 8, 2016.]

After the June 7, 2015 elections in Turkey, in which 80 representatives of the pro-Kurdish HDP won seats in parliament, President Erdogan launched a war against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for political gain. The war involves the collective punishment of Kurdish civilians. Since August, 127 security zones and 52 curfews have been imposed on Kurdish towns. In these urban centres, the Turkish state has employed tanks, rockets and sniper fire to kill 260 civilians, including women and children.

Security forces are also killing Kurdish youth, claiming they are PKK militants. These youth have built barricades and trenches to protect areas from Turkish forces. The curfews in Silopi, Cizre and Sur (a suburb of Ahmed/Diyarbakir) have continued for 23 days, during this time people have had no electricity, water, telephones or medical aid.

In Silopi, three prominent Kurdish Women politicians and an activist were killed by security forces in January 2016. They are Sêvê Demir, a member of the Party of Democratic Regions (DBP), Pakize Nayir, Co-chair of Silopi People’s Council, and Fatma Uyar, an activist in the Free Women’s Congress (KJA).

Elected mayors and officials are being imprisoned and replaced

Elected officials, journalists and activists who speak against the actions of the security forces are being arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned, and officials are being relieved of their posts. The AKP government has announced that government appointed administrators and state appointed bureaucrats will replace the elected mayors and other officials facing prison sentences.

Charges against members of parliament

President Erdogan has urged the Parliament to drop parliamentary immunity from prosecution and for state prosecutors to proceed with criminal investigations into HDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag. The co-chairs are being charged with “insulting the president”, “inciting people to take up arms” and “condoning a terrorist organisation”, despite their repeated calls for peace and political negotiations.

State documentation

A recently released Ground Forces Command document entitled ‘Personnel’s vigilance and deployment of firearms’ and dated July 30, 2015 orders state security personnel to use weapons where necessary, without fear of prosecution. The document effectively provides security forces immunity to kill civilians. (Document signed by “Ground Forces Command, 172nd Armoured Brigade Command, 3rd Tank Battalion Command, Cizre/Sirnak”, Serial number 84933840-3000-350-15, dated July 30, 2015.)

State rhetoric

President Erdogan has repeatedly claimed the military campaign will continue until “not one single terrorist remains within our borders”, and all militants are liquidated or buried in their trenches. In January, Huseyin Sozlu, Mayor of Adana and AK-Party member, made a public statement to Kurds in Turkey: ‘You will end up like Armenians.’ He was referring to the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey in 1915.

Depopulation policy

The war impacts 1.3 million people. An estimated 200,000 people have been displaced. While many are resisting security forces by remaining in their homes, others choose to evacuate or are being forced to leave. Turkish security forces are threatening civilians in Cizre, Silopi and Sur with massacre if they do not leave their homes. People who remain are surrounded by security personnel, artillery fire reducing their neighbourhoods to rubble.
In the Barbaros neighbourhood of Cizre, 7000 people were forcibly removed from their homes and taken to a sports hall in the Yenisehir neighbourhood, where they were told to leave Cizre.

Kurds are fighting ISIS

The Kurds that the Turkish state wants to liquidate are fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and were instrumental in saving tens of thousands of Yezedi from an ISIS siege in August 2014.

We ask: Why do upholders of human rights, like the UN, EU, US and Australia remain silent about Turkey’s human rights violations? Why do members of the anti-ISIS coalition remain silent about Turkey’s massacre of Kurds, who are on the front line ISIS?

We call upon international organisations and the international community to facilitate an immediate bilateral ceasefire and for the Turkish state to embark on political negotiations with Kurdish political parties, civil organisations and leaders.

For any further information please call: Melbourne: Mahmut Kahraman on 0421 543 277;
Sydney: Ismet Tastan on 0406 958 591; Adelaide: Yousef Bemal on 0433 252 972; Perth: Ozer on 0433 371 003.