|KHRP Urges Calm in Wake of South-East Turkey Violence|
The Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) urges all parties to the conflict in south-east Turkey to exercise restraint in the wake of fresh violence in recent days and parliament’s decision to grant approval for an extension of the military’s mandate to carry out cross-border operations in northern Iraq.
An attack by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) on a gendarmerie station in the south-eastern province of Hakkari last week left 17 soldiers dead and many more injured. On 8 October, another attack on a bus carrying police officers in Diyarbakır killed six people and wounded others. Although the PKK has not claimed responsibility for the latter attack, it has been widely blamed. Just hours later, the Turkish parliament voted to grant the country’s military another year in which to carry out cross-border raids into northern Iraq, where the PKK is said to have bases.
The military’s previous one-year mandate for cross-border operations was due to expire on 17 October. Over the past year, air strikes and ground assaults by Turkish forces in northern Iraq have had a devastating impact, killing and injuring civilians and destroying property. In 2008, KHRP has provided support for 76 new applicants to the European Court of Human Rights who have suffered as a direct result of Turkish operations in Iraq. KHRP’s fact-finding missions to these regions have found that these incursions do nothing to end the cycle of violence.
However, amid the heightened tensions in the past few days, mainstream politicians in Turkey have called for greater powers to be granted to the security forces and for a buffer zone to be established along the Iraqi border. Some figures have even argued in favour of the re-establishment of emergency rule in parts of the south-east. Under emergency rule in the region in the 1980s and 1990s, millions of people were forcibly displaced from their homes and human rights abuses including arbitrary detention, torture and extrajudicial killings were systematic.
‘Political manoeuvring and knee-jerk, outdated reactions which would return Turkey to the appalling patterns of violence and abuse that characterised the height of the conflict are not helpful. Instead, it is vitally important that all sides should remain calm and take care to avoid any escalation in the situation,’ said KHRP Deputy Director Rachel Bernu. ‘Currently, both sides are recycling past methods that have led nowhere. All parties must take a look at the hard-won human rights reforms that have taken place in Turkey in recent years in the context of European accession negotiations. They should be supporting actions where civil society and state officials work together to consolidate the advances made and ensure that legislative reforms actually have a positive impact on the ground. Everybody knows that a lasting solution to the situation in south-east Turkey cannot be achieved through armed intervention so this cycle of provocation and retaliation must end.’