Tensions Escalate in Kurdish South-East: Teachers Evacuated as Locals Prepare for Curfew

Source: AFP

Source: AFP

Two Kurdish men were killed in the center of Diyarbakir on Monday, after demonstrations took place against the recent nine day curfew across the Sur district. Sur, the historical part of Diyarbakir, was where the prominent human rights lawyer Tahir Elçi was killed last month and has witnessed a deterioration in security following this.

Such clashes represent the latest escalation in months of violence after the breakdown of a ceasefire between the Kurdistan Workers Party and the Turkish government in July. Since the 16th September, over 52 curfews have been declared according to the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, affecting nearly 1.3 million citizens. The co-chair of the HDP, Figen Yuksekdag, claimed that of those affected, over 200,000 have been forcibly displaced and 83 civilians have been killed.

The use of the curfews has led many to compare the current political climate to that of the 1990s, when curfews were enforced to crackdown on the activities of the PKK. Increasingly the security situation has been taken to the cities, where the youth wing of the PKK, the YDG-H, has taken up the fight against the Turkish State.

As a result, curfews have been used in city centres, where citizens have become caught in the crossfire between the state and Kurdish militants. Furthermore, citizens living in areas within the presence of militants have increasingly been seen as legitimate targets in the eyes of the state.

On Sunday, in the volatile Şirnak province, teachers were informed by the Ministry of Education to vacate the area to receive “in-house training” in their hometowns. This was followed by new deployments of troops to the region, with checkpoints set up at the entrances to the town. Many locals now anticipate that a heavy-handed curfew will be imposed on the province, with long queues witnessed at the shops and bakeries as families prepare for such a curfew.

Serhat Uğur, the co-chair of the teachers union Eğitim Sen who refused to leave after the ministry’s orders, said in an interview, “We have hundreds of teachers who are disobeying this order to evacuate. We will stay here and stand by our people to keep them alive. Our students search for answers by looking directly into our eyes. If we leave, how can we look into their eyes when we return?”

In an interview, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said “All terror elements will be cleansed. If need be neighbourhood by neighbourhood, street by street, house by house.”

With protests being brutally suppressed across the region by firearms, water cannons and tear gas, many fear that security forces will resort to more violence across the south-east.

Thousands of civilians have been displaced as they have sought safer neighbourhoods.

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