When Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu arrived in Netherlands today for one-day talks with his counterpart, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, activists from Amnesty International were there to greet him. Their message was simple: Turkey’s on-going human rights abuses can not be ignored.
— Amnesty NL (@amnestynl) February 10, 2016
In particular, Amnesty is focusing on the dramatic and far-reaching abuses in southeastern Turkey, where indefinite, round-the-clock curfews and other arbitrary measures have resulted in tremendous hardship.
Research carried out by Amnesty International in areas under curfew before December 2015 and reports from residents in areas that are currently inaccessible to external observers reveal the extreme hardships they face on account of cuts to water and electricity and the dangers of accessing food and medical care while under fire.
In some cases, water and electricity supplies have been provided intermittently, while in other areas under curfew they have been subject to total cuts. The authorities allege that the cuts are the result of damage to the infrastructure inflicted by YDG-H. While this is plausible in some cases, it is notable that the cuts have almost always coincided with the imposition of curfews. Cuts to mobile phone networks and 3G signals have also frequently occurred during curfews, which are far less likely to be due to damage to infrastructure.
In some areas under curfew residents have reported that they have been able to defy the ban on them leaving their homes and access medical care or buy food supplies. But residents in other areas have reported that due to armed clashes and the frequent use of sniper fire by the security forces, accessing food or medical services has been impossible for the duration of curfews. There have also been numerous reports of ambulances being prevented from entering areas under curfew on account of ongoing clashes or the orders of security forces. According to residents interviewed by Amnesty International, statements made by the authorities that food and medical services have been made available throughout curfews do not reflect the reality on the ground.
People living within the areas under curfew have also been prevented from leaving. Many people managed to leave these areas however, ahead of curfews being imposed or by risking their lives to escape during curfews. According to information provided by the Minister of the Interior to parliamentarians from the ruling AK Party, more than 90,000 people have left four areas under curfew, Cizre, Silopi, Sur, and Dargeçit in Mardin province, amounting to more than 20% of the total population in the affected areas.
Meanwhile, authorities have aggressively worked to impede independent monitoring and suppress criticism of the on-going operations. “People speaking out against the abuses have been subjected to threats, criminal investigation and other forms of harassment.”
In a telling example of how little tolerance the authorities have for any form of dissent regarding the operations, on 9 January, state prosecutors initiated a criminal investigation for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”, against a chat show host. The investigation was launched after a caller to the “Beyaz Show” said that mothers and children were being killed in the south east, urging people not to stay silent about it. The chat show host, Beyazıt Öztürk, thanked and applauded her for her contribution, saying he supported her call for peace. A media furore, death threats against those involved and investigation against the chat show host, the head of the television programme and the caller, Ayşe Çelik ensued.
In a statement last month, John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme Director, noted:
While the Turkish authorities appear determined to silence internal criticism, they have faced very little from the international community. Strategic considerations relating to the conflict in Syria and determined efforts to enlist Turkey’s help in stemming the flow of refugees to Europe must not overshadow allegations of gross human rights violations. The international community must not look the other way.
There will be a lot on Prime Ministers’ plates in their meeting today. But Amnesty is making sure that Turkish abuses are not forgotten along the way.
St. Lawrence University