Kurdish protesters in Cizre, southeastern Turkey. File photo
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CIZRE – The Turkish government is blocking access for independent investigations into alleged mass abuses against civilians across the Kurdish region southeast Turkey, Human Rights Watch said today. The alleged abuses include unlawful killings of civilians, mass forced civilian displacement, and widespread unlawful destruction of private property. Moreover, the report confirms that Turkish security forces fired on civilians in the streets carrying white flags.
“The government should promptly grant the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights permission to enter the area and investigate according to its standards,” HRW said.
Since the July 2015 breakdown of a peace process to end the decades-long conflict between the Turkish state and the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), violence and armed clashes in the southeastern region have escalated. During security operations since August, the authorities have imposed curfews on 22 towns and city neighbourhoods, preventing non-governmental organizations, journalists and lawyers from scrutinizing those operations or any resulting abuses by security forces or armed groups.
According to HRW, authorities have blocked rights groups – including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Physicians for Human Rights – from trying to document abuses even after curfews and operations ended.
“The Turkish government’s effective blockade of areas of the southeast fuels concerns of a major cover-up,” said Emma Sinclair-Webb, senior Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Turkish government should give the UN and nongovernmental groups immediate access to the area to document what’s going on there.”
Most of the deaths, destruction, and mass displacement occurred in nine towns, including Cizre. More than 355,000 people have been temporarily displaced within towns or to other nearby towns and villages, or to other regions of Turkey. At least 338 civilians have been killed in places where clashes broke out between security forces and the PKK-linked Civil Protection Units (YPS), HRW said.
Moreover, a list of dead compiled by Cizre-based lawyers showed that 66 civilians, including 11 children were killed by gunfire or mortars, in operations between December 14 and February 22, 2015. “The available information also indicates that security forces surrounded three buildings and deliberately and unjustifiably killed about 130 people – among whom were unarmed civilians and injured combatants – trapped in the basements,” HRW said.
The majority of deaths of Cizre residents occurred in neighborhoods where the YPS had erected barricades and dug trenches, and clashes took place between security forces and armed groups. However, some civilians were killed in neighborhoods where there were no clashes or barricades.
On December 25, in an area of Sur where no barricades had been erected and no armed groups were operating, members of the security forces fired on and killed a 3-month-old baby, Miray İnce, and her 82-year-old great-grandfather, Ramazan İnce, relatives of the victims told Human Rights Watch. “As baby Miray, my brother Hasan’s granddaughter, was carried down the steps in the courtyard by her aunt they were shot at from the hill opposite where the military had placed snipers and armored vehicles. Miray was hit by a bullet,” Abdurrahman İnce (61) told HRW. “At first we thought she was dead but then she cried and we called 155 [the police] to get her to hospital. The emergency services told us that we should go as two men and a woman carrying a white flag as far as the ambulance. That’s exactly what we did,” he added.
However, when the Kurdish family carried a white flag, his father Ramazan and the baby Miray were shot again from the open hill where security forces were positioned. “Finally, a member of parliament, Faysal Sarıyıldız, got an ambulance to them but both my father and baby Miray died,” Ince said. “Even when the police told you things were safe, the security forces kept on shooting.”
“Credible accounts of Turkish security forces deliberately killing civilians, including children, when they were carrying white flags or trapped in basements should be ringing loud alarm bells,” said Sinclair-Webb. “The prosecutor in Cizre should conduct a full, effective, independent investigation capable of delivering justice for the victims.”
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg
Source: ARA News