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REPUBLIC OF TURKEY: Curfews and crackdown force hundreds of thousands of Kurds from their homes

14 Dec 2016
[International Secretariat]
Region: REPUBLIC OF TURKEY
Topic: Forced Eviction

Tens of thousands of residents of the UNESCO world heritage site of Sur are among an estimated half a million people forced out of their homes as a result of a brutal crackdown by Turkish authorities over the past year which may amount to collective punishment, said Amnesty International in a new report.

As the suppression of opposition Kurdish voices by the Turkish government intensifies, the report reveals the desperate plight of families forced out of the historical centre of Diyarbakir as a result of intensive security operations towards the end of last year and an ongoing round-the-clock curfew. Homes in the once-bustling district have been destroyed by shelling, demolished and expropriated to pave the way for a redevelopment project that very few former residents are likely to benefit from.

Following the breakdown of a ceasefire in July 2015, clashes broke out between people affiliated to the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces. In response to declarations of “self-governance”, the building of barricades and digging of trenches in Sur, the central district of Diyarbakır, and other towns across the south-east, authorities began imposing 24-hour curfews and carrying out heavily militarised security operations.

On 11 December 2015, an indefinite 24 hour curfew was declared in six of Sur’s 15 neighbourhoods preventing people from leaving their homes even to buy essential food or medical supplies. Police reportedly used loudspeakers to order people to leave. Water and electricity were cut for extended periods, while homes were rocked by army shells and peppered with bullets.

The clashes in Sur ended in March 2016, but the curfew has remained in large parts of the district. Following the forced evictions almost all properties have been expropriated by Turkish authorities with many buildings also demolished. Although return has been made almost impossible by the curfew and the destruction, some residents have ventured back only to find their homes ransacked and possessions looted or destroyed.

A woman told Amnesty International that she was harassed by the police when she visited her home six months after being forced to leave, and is not planning to go back. “We found all our belongings broken and piled up in in the courtyard,” she said. Her family were offered 3,000TL (around 800 Euro) compensation for the loss of their possessions, a fraction of what they were worth. Her daughter-in law said: “We were going to appeal but they said that this is all we would get, so we signed.”

Displaced residents have been unable to find adequate alternative housing that is affordable and have struggled to access essential services. Many lost their jobs when they were displaced and children have had their education severely disrupted or have dropped out of school altogether. Grossly inadequate compensation and a failure by authorities to provide sufficient – or in some cases any – rent assistance has pushed already impoverished families into greater hardship.

To compound the situation, the targeting of Kurdish opposition voices following the coup attempt has meant that NGOs providing vital support for poor and displaced people have now been shut down.

Residents reject government claims that the ongoing curfew and house demolitions are being done in the interest of security given that the clashes finished over eight months ago. Instead they see them as part of a calculated plan to redevelop their neighbourhoods and resettle them elsewhere. An urban regeneration project first aired in 2012 has been resurrected, but details remain scant and residents have not been consulted. This follows a pattern of such projects in Turkey which have forcibly evicted residents who are never able to return home.

Background

Many of the people in Sur came there after being forced to evacuate from rural villages during the conflict in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Forced relocations by Turkey’s security forces at that time resulted in Diyarbakır’s population more than doubling in size.

Under the state of emergency introduced following the July coup-attempt, the human rights situation in the south-east of Turkey has deteriorated. A series of executive decrees has all but eliminated opposition Kurdish voices, shutting down media and NGOs. Elected mayors, including those for Sur and Diyarbakir, were replaced with government appointed trustees.

In November, hundreds of NGOs across Turkey were closed on the unspecified grounds of “links to terrorist organizations or threats to national security. Among the NGOs that were closed were the main ones providing assistance to families displaced from Sur.

6 December 2016
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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