Report on Recent Situation in the Kurdish Region of Turkey


 To the International Community and Human Rights Organizations


Recent Situation in the Kurdish Region

Human rights violations in Turkey, especially in the Kurdish region, increase in an alarming rate. Just a few days after we shared our 9-month report on the situation of human rights in the Kurdish region of Turkey, Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı, the elected co-mayors of Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality were detained, the municipal building was raided by the police and the police siege is continuing around the building in the 5th day. Co-mayors’ houses were searched without their lawyers’ presence and they were kept under custody without any contact with the lawyers or anybody else.

While the siege around the municipal building is still in place, no civilians are allowed to go municipality and receive service. The public buses as well as cleaning trucks and other vehicles of the municipality are barred from services. As a result, people cannot easily travel in city and garbage cannot be collected from the streets.

Detention of co-mayors took place hours after the last official inspection process by the inspectors appointed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which continued for the last 3 weeks within Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality. Although inspectors could not find any grounds for detaining co-mayors with allegations of misuse of municipal power and infraction of rules, the government detained the co-mayors.

According to the press release by the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of Diyarbakır, the co-mayors were detained due to the statements they had made, mainly because the Turkish government believes that their detention would be beneficial for its political interests. Those statements made by the co-mayors fall into cases of exercising right for freedom of speech.

In the 5th day of their detentions, Ms. Kisanak and Mr. Anli were sent to a puppet court by the Public Prosecutor and unsurprisingly they were arrested on the 30th of October. The other senior executives of the municipality are still in detention, and they have not been tried by the court yet in addition to not having access to their lawyers.

The detentions and arrest of the co-mayors is the latest in a series of arrests affecting democratically elected representatives over the past few months in the Kurdish region. Dozens have reportedly been suspended from public service and many were detained.

Situation in the Last 9 Months

The detentions and suspensions should also be considered as continuation of the major human rights violations, including the right to live, by the Turkish government under the leadership of the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Around 2 thousand people, including Kurdish militants and Turkish security forces, lost their lives during the conflicts starting on 24 July 2015. Millions of people were affected by the conflicts and it is estimated that around 400 thousand people had to leave their homes.

The human rights violations increase dramatically due to the conflicts. Extrajudicial killings, torture, maltreatment, violent intervention of meetings and demonstrations, violations because of military operations, threads on freedom of expression and thought, violations against press freedom, violation of housing right, violence against women and children, violations of social and economic rights are all at stake.

With the latest decree laws issued by the government on grounds of state of emergency, alternative or opposition news sources including the Azadiya Welat, the only Kurdish daily newspaper in Turkey and Jinha News, the first and only women news agency in the world and Zarok TV, the first and only Kurdish TV channel for children, were closed. In total, 160 media sources, the majority of which are Kurdish, are shut down. Press cards of many journalists have been annulled and many journalists and reporters are in jail now.

The right to education in mother tongue is still not guaranteed and even informal teaching of the Kurdish language is under serious thread now. Ferzad Kemanger Primary School, a de facto school which was run collectively by the teachers and families wishing to provide education to their children in Kurdish, was shut down on 9 October 2016 after two years of teaching.

No NGOs can hold democratic and peaceful gatherings and demonstrations in any part of the Kurdish region. As Human Rights Association, we are not allowed to organize our ordinary weekly press conferences held for the Saturday Mothers, who are relatives of those Kurdish politicians or civilians forcibly lost by the Turkish state. In its 403rd week, sit-in protests of the Saturday Mothers can only be held inside the office of the association.

Thousands of teachers were dismissed mainly because of their legal and official union-related works. They are accused of “supporting terrorist organization” merely because they went on a one-day general strike in order to call for peace in the region. Similarly, thousands of academics were dismissed, many of which signed a petition calling the government to stop war and restart the negotiations for peace. Some of these teachers and academics are still kept in detention without any trial. Also, a dozen of high school students who wanted to protest the dismissal of their teachers were beaten publicly and detained for their peaceful demonstration.

Another anti-democratic step taken and violation of human rights committed by the Turkish government is to appoint trustees to the municipalities run by the HDP to replace the democratically elected co-mayors. Currently, 28 municipalities are under the government invasion without any solid basis for misuse of power or infraction of rules. The detention of the co-mayors of Diyarbakir, Gültan Kışanak and Fırat Anlı, gives the impression that the government wants to replace them with a trustee as well.

Tortures against the Kurdish prisoners have increased severely as well as the maltreatments during detention. The duration for detention was prolonged up to 30 days while there are serious limitations on meeting with lawyers. To make things worse, people face serious physical and psychological torture during detention and under custody despite the fact that the Turkish laws and international conventions signed by Turkey strictly forbid all kinds of torture. There are also serious violations of the right to receive health treatment. Besides, 756 prisoners, including 300 people having crucial conditions, are not provided with healthcare in spite of several applications and formal requests made by our association.

Violations of rights of women and children are also on a critical rise. In the first 9 months of 2016, 34 women were killed by men and 8 women committed suicide. During the same period, 9 children were killed, 9 committed suicide and 71 children were exposed to sexual harassment.

Destruction of the historical Sur district of Diyarbakir is still ongoing despite the fact that there are no clashes since March 2016. The curfew imposed on the 6 neighborhoods affected most by the clashes is still not lifted. In accordance with the official figures, 1750 houses were demolished by the Turkish state and 500 more wait for the same result. More than 20.000 inhabitants of these neighborhoods are still homeless and unprotected despite the winter cold at the door.

Due to the abundance of human rights violations against the inhabitants of the Kurdish region, it is hard to even follow the miserable conditions of the refugees scattered around the Kurdish region, mainly in Diyarbakir and Urfa. Though it is not discussed, there are hundreds of thousands of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, primarily from Syria and Iraq, living outside the formal camps and they are facing a lot of difficulties, especially in relation to education and employment as well harassment and maltreatment by the locals.

In the first 9 months of the year, 40.573 violations of human rights in total took place in the Kurdish region. We must note that these are only hitherto violations that our association could reach. The bitter truth is that the numbers and cases of human rights violations are feared to be much higher in the Kurdish region.

Demands from the International Community and Human Rights Organizations

Considering the content and extent of the human rights violations committed in the Kurdish region by the Turkish government, it is urgent to:

  1. Make strong press releases for the immediate release of Ms. Gültan Kışanak and Mr. Fırat Anlı, the democratically elected co-mayors of Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality
  2. Condemn the police blockade around the building of Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality
  3. Put pressure on countries’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and their consulates and embassies in Turkey to make statement and convey these statements to official bodies of the Republic of Turkey (Consulates, Embassies, Union of Turkish Municipalities, The Office of Prime Minister and Office of President of the Republic of Turkey / & &
  4. Call international mechanisms (i.e. United Nations) and European institutions (European Council, European Parliament, The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the European Council etc.) to consider this issue as a matter of true urgency and summon their related bodies as soon as possible in order to initiate actions with regard to their jurisdiction.
  5. Visit the Kurdish region as soon as possible in order to show their solidarity with the Kurdish people
  6. Condemn the state of emergency declared and prolonged in Turkey and call for the immediate abolition of it.