Turkey security forces are subjecting residents of Kurdish-dominated southeastern Turkey to “collective punishment” with military operations backed by curfews, Amnesty International said on Thursday, accusing the army of “recklessly” using excessive force.
Turkey has imposed successive curfews over the last months in towns in the southeast to back military operations aiming to crush militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Curfews remain in place in Cizre in Sirnak province and the Sur district of Diyarbakir city, which were imposed on December 14 and December 2 respectively. A curfew in place since December 14 in Silopi, also in Sirnak, was partially lifted on Tuesday.
The army says hundreds of militants have been killed in an “anti-terror” operation but Kurdish groups have long raised alarm over the civilian toll.
“The operations currently being conducted under round-the-clock curfews are putting the lives of tens of thousands of people at risk and are beginning to resemble collective punishment,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.
Amnesty International called on the Turkish government to end the indefinite curfews, saying residents had been left without access to emergency health care, food, water and electricity for extended periods.
“Operations by police and the military in these areas have been characterised by abusive use of force, including firing heavy weaponry in residential neighbourhoods,” the group said in a report.
A man climbs out of a hole in the wall of a house damaged during fighting, in the Kurdish town of Silopi on January 19, 2016
“There is little doubt that the Turkish authorities are putting lives at risk by using lethal force excessively and recklessly,” it added.
The military operations are particularly aimed at the PKK’s youth branch the Patriotic Revolutionist Youth Movement (YDG-H) which the government says has dug trenches and erected barricades in urban areas.
“Security measures, including those aimed at arresting suspected members of YDG-H, must adhere to Turkey’s obligations under international human rights law,” said Amnesty.
It quoted data from the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV) saying that 162 people have been killed during the curfews since operations were launched in August 2015, including 29 women, 32 children and 24 people over 60.
With Turkey part of the US-led coalition against jihadists in Syria and a key player in the EU refugee crisis, Dalhuisen said the Turkish authorities had faced “very little” criticism from the international community.
“Strategic considerations… must not overshadow allegations of gross human rights violations. The international community must not look the other way,” he said.