Mourners gathered around the coffins of 16 people killed during a Turkish army curfew in the Kurdish town of Cizre. (AFP Photo/Ilyas Akengin)
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QAMISHLI – International Crisis Group (ICG) on Wednesday confirmed the deaths of at least 1,700 people, including 307 civilians, since the conflict between the Turkish armed forces and the PKK re-erupted in July 2015. Moreover, the ICG said that both Turkey and Kurdish rebels exaggerate the numbers of deaths of their rivals.
At least 1,700 people were killed, after the break down of the two-and-a-half-year ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) since July 2015, data from the International Crisis Group shows.
According to the Crisis Group, the conflict resulted in the displacement of more than 350,000 civilians and massive urban destruction in some south-eastern districts populated by Kurds.
“A year later, whole swathes of Turkey’s majority Kurdish south east have been devastated, bombings have struck at the heart of the country’s largest metropolitan centres, and the PKK conflict is inextricably linked with conflicts in the Middle East, especially the war in Syria,” Berkay Mandıracı, the ICG researcher for Turkey wrote on the website of the ICG.
The ICG says that the July 2015 flare-up of the PKK conflict is one of the most violent episodes in its 32-year history. “The most significant indicator for this is the number of state security force members killed, usually accurately reported by military sources and subsequently covered in Turkish media,” Mandıracı added.
According to data of the ICG open-source casualty database, between 20 July 2015 and 19 July 2016, at least 307 civilians, 582 security forces, 653 PKK rebels, and 219 ‘youth of an unknown affiliation’ were killed in the conflict.
The ICG also said it is notable that 30% of all recorded casualties are concentrated in the districts of Sur, Nusaybin and Cizre, of which the latter two are directly neighbouring Kurdish-inhabited areas of Syria, also known as Rojava.
ICG data also shows that the PKK is withdrawing from urban areas and shifting back to its traditional rural tactics. May 2016 was the first month since November 2015 in which the number of total rural deaths was higher than total number of urban deaths.
“57 per cent of security force casualties occurred in rural areas in May 2016, as opposed to 33 per cent in April and 13 per cent in February,” the ICG said.
However, according to experts the PKK has had a high-level support base in these border areas for years, and there might not be any relation to Syria.
Speaking to ARA News, Ceng Sagnic, a researcher with the Tel Aviv-based Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, said: “Main conflict areas are the most rural and predominantly Kurdish speaking areas where PKK has substantially been active over the past three decades.”
“The proximity of these areas to Syrian Kurdistan does not show any credible factor since possible supply chains from Syria to Turkey are under full control of the Turkish military,” he concluded.
Moreover, the data shows that both the PKK and the Turkish armed forces are inflating data. Both PKK and Turkey claimed to have killed ten times more of their enemy.
“Despite these methodological limitations, it is safe to say that PKK claims for the number of state security forces killed, as well as state figures for PKK members killed are inflated,” the ICG said.
The ICG’s casualty count of the last year reflects the security force-to-militant ratio at 1.16, while the same ratio was 1.75 for Crisis Group’s casualty count for the 2011-2013 escalation cycle.
“This is a significant indicator of how intensified the conflict is, since the deliberate inflation of casualties on the rival side is a common method used in wars that are anticipated to continue,” Sagnic told ARA News.
“Our cities in the region would be flooded with corpses and we would constantly hold funerals if the number the state announces for PKK members killed was correct,” a human rights activist in Diyarbakır told Crisis Group in January 2016.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg
Source: ARA News