Sunday, November 8, 2015

Turkey Still Besieges Its Kurds - Uzay Bulut

by Uzay Bulut

  • "They attacked even the wounded. Many people throughout Kurdistan have been arrested wholesale lately. Some of them participated in the election campaigns for our party. Many Turkish mainstream media outlets distort the facts and put the blame of the conflicts on Kurds. But it was the police that started the violence and conflicts... they murdered civilians knowingly and intentionally" — Ferhat Encu, Kurdish MP for the People's Democratic Party (HDP).
  • "The police broke F.A.'s teeth, tortured him, beat him and inserted a gun in his anus. ... When we saw him, there were bruises and marks of torture all over his body." — Zozan Acar, F.A.'s lawyer.
  • "We sent ambulances, but the police opened fire even at the ambulances. They open fire at anyone who go outside." — Seyfettin Aydemir, co-mayor of Silopi.
  • Even though the AKP won the majority of votes this week, on Nov. 3 a curfew was imposed on the Kurdish town of Silvan -- for the sixth time since Aug. 17. Just before the curfew, Muslum Tayar, 22, was killed by the police. They shot him from their armored vehicle.

For the past few years, the AKP government has proudly proclaimed that it wanted to resolve the Kurdish issue: "bring peace" to Turkey. But the government has kept attacking Kurds, including their legal political party, the People's Democratic Party (HDP).

"We target those who target Turkey. If they have not targeted Turkey, we do not target them," Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in televised comments on July 27.

But of all the civilian Kurds killed or tortured lately, which ones targeted Turkey? And how?

This year, the Turkish government and state authorities have been using "ditches," "barricades" or young Kurds clashing with police as excuses to terrorize the Kurdish provinces. The authorities claim that the Kurds are "terrorists," and that they, the authorities, are simply maintaining order and protecting lives.

The aim of the Turkish state and military, however, does not seem to be to "stop criminals." If you try to stop criminals, you do not daily commit crimes even more brutal than theirs.

The aim of the Turkish government seems to be to attack and destroy Kurds simply for being Kurds. They have been arbitrarily arrested, tortured or murdered wholesale ever since the Turkish Republic was established in 1923.

According to the state ideology and the mainstream media, if Kurds ask for rights, it is due to "American imperialism," "an Israeli scheme," or some other "external factor," never to the Kurds' genuine wish to live in dignity as equals.

The authorities could have negotiated with Kurdish politicians -- who declared several times that they were willing to reach a peaceful and democratic resolution for the Kurdish issue -- but they have not.

This week, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the plurality of votes (49.46%) and a majority of seats in parliament in the November 1 elections. The pro-Kurdish HDP lost votes but still achieved 10.75% percent of the popular vote, surpassing the 10% threshold required to remain in parliament. (In the June elections, the HDP had gained 13% of the vote, winning 80 seats in the parliament and ending 12 years of single-party rule of the AKP.)

Since the prior election in June, however, in which the popularity of the HDP had prevented the AKP from reaching a majority, Kurdish towns in Turkey's Kurdistan have suffered unending attacks, torture and murder by Turkish "security" forces, seemingly in an attempt to intimidate Turkey's Kurds and exact revenge on their support for the HDP.

Curfews were imposed on several Kurdish towns including Dargecit, Cizre, Silopi, Silvan, Varto, Yuksekova, and Sur -- all strongholds of the Kurdish political movement.

On October 10, the district governor of Dargecit wrote that a "curfew has been issued to provide order in Dargecit, to prevent crimes, to protect people's rights and liberties, to neutralize the members of the terrorist organization, to capture the wanted, and to maintain the security of people's life and property by removing barricades and ditches where explosives and were placed."

What the police did, however, had nothing to with the "objectives" in that statement. Instead, the police attacked the residents of Dargecit with heavy weaponry and arrested politicians in house raids, including the deputy co-mayor of the town.

In other Kurdish towns, excuses for the curfews by the state authorities were similar, but what the authorities brought was anything but "security of life and property." Instead again, they brought torture, starvation, destruction and murder.

The town of Cizre in the Kurdish province of Sirnak, for instance, was closed to the world for eight days, September 4-12.

A heavy bombardment by Turkish "security" forces kept residents trapped in their homes. Officials of the HDP were not even permitted to enter the town. In June's general elections, Cizre had voted overwhelmingly for the pro-Kurdish HDP -- by 91.97%.

People kept the dead bodies of their family members in refrigerators and sometimes in the cold storage depot of a chicken shop.[1]

The Kurdish town of Cizre in Turkey was indiscriminately bombarded by Turkish security forces in September. Many homes were heavily damaged or destroyed. Photographic evidence shows many buildings and vehicles in the town riddled with bullet holes.

The HDP party issued a long report on state violence against Kurds in Turkey, in which they wrote:
Although the Minister of EU Affairs, Ali Haydar Konca, and HDP deputies... convinced the Governor and Turkish armed forces to transfer the bodies to the morgue, the armed forces nevertheless fired bullets and gas cannisters on civilians and deputies during the transfers.... The armed forces started threatening all citizens of the town through public announcements such as, 'We will shoot anyone who steps out into the streets.' ... Many houses were... demolished by armored vehicles... State-appointed governors also declared the provinces of Lice, Silvan, Silopi and Yuksekova in the Kurdish region 'special security zones.' The people residing there were forbidden to go outside, and blockades were set up.... Dozens of civilians lost their lives or were injured; dozens of homes, businesses and vehicles were ruined.
The electricity was cut off. For eight days, people had difficulty finding food, medicine and water.

Meanwhile, Turkey's Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said: "Not a single civilian died in Cizre. The curfew will not continue forever. It will end only when it should end."

All the dead, however, were civilians.[2]

One of the people interviewed said:
They even shoot people trying to take the wounded to the hospital. There is problem of electricity. We are in the dark. We drink water that should not be drunk. There are families from Syria and Kobane here. They are in a desperate situation.
Ferhat Encu, a Kurdish Member of Parliament for the HDP, told Gatestone Institute that 21 people had been murdered in the town -- 15 shot dead. The rest lost their lives because they had not able to be taken to hospitals.

One of the victims, 75-year-old Mehmet Erdogan, who was shot in the head, had apparently gone outside to find bread. After the curfew, his body was found on the street. A nylon bag with pieces of bread inside was found beside him.[3]

When state authorities announced through a loudspeaker the lifting of the curfew, they said: "Our security forces have carried out a successful operation against members of the terrorist organization."

A reporter for the newspaper, Cumhuriyet, Mahmut Oral, wrote:
"Armored police vehicles are in the middle of the town. Panzers are travelling throughout the streets... There are still wounded, pregnant or sick people who have not been able to get medical treatment. There are still dead bodies in coolers or deep freezes. Mass burial ceremonies will be held."
(Photos of the aftermath of the curfew here. More photos here. A video from the Dicle News Agency shows the streets of Cizre turned into ruins.)

In the meantime, the interior ministry suspended the co-mayor of Cizre, Leyla Imret, 27, the youngest mayor in Turkey, who had won a record 83% of the votes in mayoral elections last March. The ministry accused her of encouraging her fellow Kurds to begin an armed uprising and of spreading "terror propaganda."[4]

The town of Silopi, one of the many strongholds of the Kurdish political movement in Turkey's Kurdistan, was also a victim of state violence. In the June 7 elections, its residents had voted overwhelmingly -- nearly 90% -- for the pro-Kurdish HDP. Before dawn on August 7, police blockaded Silopi; shot people randomly; murdered three people[5] and wounded many others. The police then set fire to six houses.

The co-mayor of Silopi, Seyfettin Aydemir, told the newspaper Evrensel, "Fires broke out in many houses during the clashes. We sent ambulances, but the police opened fire even at the ambulances. There are sharpshooters all around. They open fire at anyone who go outside."

Ferhat Encu, a Kurdish member of parliament for the HDP, told Gatestone Institute:
Silopi was under siege for days. They attacked even the wounded. People were terrorized, they could not go outside. Even we, as parliamentarians, had difficulty travelling across the town. We always used to take our cars to those neighborhoods to see what is happening. It was dangerous to walk through the streets. Even a child, aged 15 or 16, was shot on his back. Many people throughout Kurdistan were arrested wholesale -- innocent people. Some participated in election campaigns for our HDP party. People are worried.... Some youths dug ditches to stop the police from entering their neighborhoods and arresting and torturing them. But the police, on the pretext of filling the ditches, attacked the neighborhoods anyway. Many Turkish mainstream media outlets distort the facts and put the blame of the conflicts on Kurds. But it was the police that started the violence and conflicts. Armored vehicles travelled across the town to terrorize people, and opened fire at them. Many people packed their bags and fled. This much is clear: All of the civilians in the town -- both men and women -- were targeted by sharpshooters. They murdered civilians knowingly and intentionally.

"F.A.," one of the nine people detained while trying to take the wounded neighbors or friends to hospital, was tortured and raped while under detention.

"F.A. is about 20 or 21," his lawyer, Zozan Acar, told Gatestone Institute. "He was arrested in front of the hospital. We tried to go to the police station to see the detainees but the police stopped us. In the meantime, the police broke F.A.'s teeth, tortured him, beat him and inserted a gun in his anus. He fainted during the torture. Then he was taken to hospital. When we saw him, there were bruises and marks of torture all over his body." (Photos here.)

Serdar Acar, a doctor at Silopi state hospital, told IMC TV that the police put a gun to his head:
The police came into the hospital in a rush and said that there was a wounded police officer somewhere and that they needed an ambulance. When I said the ambulances should be called on the phone and that I had no authority to send ambulances out of the hospital, they put a gun to my head and tried to take me there by force. But I refused.
Some who came to the hospital had been wounded during police attacks. I saw the police break the windows of their cars and beat them... There were wounded people, including a child that had particles of a kind of bomb on her body. I don't know if it was a bomb that wounded them, but they had not been wounded by bullets.
Huseyin Bogatekin, a lawyer with the Libertarian Lawyers' Association, said:
The only authority here is police officers with heavy weapons, and lots of armored vehicles. We have observed a state of emergency and plenty of rights violations. We cannot find an authority to ask whether there has been a judicial process on these incidents. There is no prosecutor at the Silopi courthouse to whom we can submit a petition. Those under detention or interrogation have been completely abandoned to the police or other armed authorities. We do not know what kind of interrogation they will be exposed to. They are being tortured. There is no assurance that they will come out alive. We do not know if they have even been able to get reports out about the torture."
During that time, a video was released showing about 30 handcuffed Kurds in the town of Yuksekova, in the Kurdish Hakkari province of Turkey, lying face down, and surrounded by Turkish police officers, soldiers and vehicles. "You will see the power of the State of the Republic of Turkey!" an officer shouts at the Kurdish workers. "I know all of you! Whoever is committing treason, whoever is being a traitor will see a response! ...You will see the power of the Turk." [6]

It was under these circumstances that the HDP entered elections in Turkey. It was business as usual, Turkish style.

Even though the AKP won the plurality of votes and a majority of seats in parliament this week, on November 3 a new curfew was imposed on the Kurdish town of Silvan -- for the sixth time since August 17. Just before the curfew, Muslum Tayar, 22, was killed by the police. They shot him from their armored vehicle. His waiting family has still not been given his body. Since August 17, seven civilians have been murdered there. [7]

The telephone lines and internet connections have been cut. Many armored vehicles, helicopters, police and military forces have also been dispatched there.

Either through uprisings or legal politics, every time the Kurds have asked for national rights or even basic human rights in Turkey, they have been brutally suppressed.

They have nevertheless established an administration in Iraqi Kurdistan and are about to establish another one in Syrian Kurdistan.

Most significantly, in Turkey's elections in June, the Kurds won a great victory, thereby thwarting the plans of the ruling AKP government to amend the constitution to giving President Recep Tayyip Erdogan absolute power, like a Sultan.

And despite all the state terror, Kurds succeeded in entering the parliament again on November 1, and once again President Erdogan was deprived of a parliamentary supermajority for his AKP party, which would have granted him exclusive executive powers to rewrite Turkey's constitution and become a Sultan-like ruler for life.

Yet, the Turkish state and many Turkish people seem to feel affronted: Why have they not succeeded in defeating the Kurds, or at least "assimilating" them into "Turkishness"? This is, after all, the "modern," "secular," "democratic" Turkey, a member of NATO, and a state being considered for entry into the European Union.

What, then, is "peace"? In most democratic, civilized countries, one assumes that peace means an end to hostilities and the intent to abstain from further violence. It can also aim to secure the justice and respect the rights of all parties. But to Turkey, "peace" seems to mean a state in which you subjugate, terrorize, and if possible exterminate a people you have persecuted for decades. As long as Turkey is allowed to get away with ethnically cleansing groups it has been oppressing for hundreds of years, the ethnic cleansing will continue.
Uzay Bulut, born and raised a Muslim, is a Turkish journalist based in Ankara.

[1] 53-year-old Meryem Sune, a mother of 7, for instance, lost her life after being hit by a piece of shrapnel, but as people were not allowed to go outside, her family members could not bury her immediately. Her dead body was kept in a cold storage depot of a chicken shop for two days (photo). The body of Cemile Cagirga, 13, shot dead in front of her house, was also kept in a deep freeze by her family as they waited for the curfew to be lifted.
[2] The HDP reported the names of some of the civilians killed by Turkish police or soldiers: Muhammed Tahir (35 days old), Baran Çağlı (7 years old), Emin Yanaş (10 years old), Cemile Çagırca (13 years old), Adem İrtegün (16 years old), Osman Çağlı (18 years old), Emin Levent (19 years old), Özgür Taşkın (20 years old), Sait Çağdavul (21 years old), Eyüp Ergen (25 years old, health service worker), Mesut Sanrı (28 years old), Meryem Süne (53 years old), Hacı Ata Borçin (60 years old), Xetban Bülbül (71 years old), İbrahim Çiçek (80 years old). An IMC TV report, showing the town incessantly under incessant assault by the police, revealed the police at night announcing to the people of Cizre: "Armenians are proud of you. You are all Armenians" -- "Armenians" being used by many in Turkey as a curse word.
[3] Another victim was one-month-old baby Tahir Yaramis. On September 6, his parents tried to call an ambulance after Tahir became ill, but, as his father, Abdullah Yaramis, said: "The armored vehicles waiting at the beginning of the street prevented the ambulance from coming to our house. The ambulance went back after waiting there for a while."
[4] Some newspapers in Turkey, misquoting Imret's interview with Vice News, claimed that "Imret admitted to 'conducting civil war.'" Imret opposed the decision. "It is unacceptable," she said, "that I have been dismissed from my post due to a distorted news report." John Beck, the Vice News reporter, refuted the newspapers' false reporting.
[5] Mehmet Hidir Tanboga, 17, Hamdin Ulas, 58, Kamuran Bilin, 27.
[6] The latest victims of state violence in the town were a mother, Fatma Ay, 55, and her daughter, Berfin Okten, 14, according to the Dicle News Agency. On the night of August 30, while they were sleeping on the roof of their house, they were shot by district police sharpshooters located opposite their house. The mother died; her daughter was badly wounded and taken to a hospital in a neighboring city.
On August 29 in the town, three more people -- Halil Can, Ali Oduk and Faruk Aydin -- were murdered by the police. Some Turkish news agencies claimed that they had clashed with the police, but Ferhat Encu, an MP of Sirnak, who went to the area, said that the three young men were unarmed and had been running away from the police:
"When the youths realized that the police were following them, they were concerned and ran inside a house to hide from them. The house was besieged by police, who opened fire at the house... The youths were unarmed and were executed by the police."
The dead bodies were taken to the customs gate, instead of Silopi state hospital.
Seyfettin Aydemir, the co-mayor of Silopi, said that he was not there during the killing and that there was no data at hand to prove there were clashes between the police and the youths:
"The residents of the neighborhood told us that the three youths had sought shelter in that home. The police besieged and attacked it with heavy weaponry and bombs. Three people were executed. Thousands of bullets were shot at the house; and bombs were thrown. Everything around was covered with the marks of bullets and blood."
Ferhat Encu also posted photos of the house where those people were murdered.
[7] Muslum Tayar (22), Serhat Binen (25), Bilal Meygil (16), Vedat Akcanim (17), Hayriye Hudaverdi (75), Hasan Yilmaz (9), Ferhat Gensur (16).

Uzay Bulut, born and raised a Muslim, is a Turkish journalist based in Ankara.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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