A small Kurdish village in southeastern Turkey was occupied by the Turkish army for 19 days, ending on March 2. In the days since, shocking photos have been circulating on social media showing the brutality that occurred. The photos show destroyed homes and walls pockmarked by bullets, as well as the carcasses of animals that starved to death while their owners were on lockdown. Further images show people who appear to have been tortured.
From February 11 to March 2, people living in the village of Koruköy (called Xerabê Bava in Kurdish) claim they were forbidden from leaving their homes by the Turkish army. Among the allegations that have emerged include: soldiers arresting village residents, including the 71-year-old village chief, and the bulldozing of several homes. Being unable to care for their animals, the villagers lost much of their livestock, which starved to death.
The local Kurdish press published numerous accounts of locals who said soldiers had assassinated several residents and tortured others.
Abdi Aykut, a resident of Koruköy, claimed that he was tortured by the soldiers who occupied his village. His photo was first posted online on February 22. According to his lawyer, Aykut was taken to a hospital located outside of the village for treatment before being arrested on March 3.
Cut off from the world for 19 days
While the landlines in the village were all cut during the reported occupation, some local residents were able to use cell phones to alert people outside about what was happening. In these phone calls, residents said that soldiers had arbitrarily beaten both teenagers and the elderly in the streets. They also claimed that the army had also cut off electricity as well as prevented ill people from going to see a doctor.
The police prefecture in Mardin province (which includes Koruköy) claims that this rural village is used as a rear base for the PKK (The Kurdistan Workers Party), which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
In a press release published at the end of the curfew, the police prefecture claimed that some villagers had allowed Kurdish combatants to store arms and munitions in their basements. In the same press release, the police thanked residents for their “cooperation”.
Animals starved to death
The curfew wasn’t lifted until March 2. A group of local deputies — who were part of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), a pro-Kurdish party that carried out several protests against the curfew — documented the destruction in the village and shared the photos on Twitter.
These deputies shared a large number of photos of frozen animal carcasses, claiming that the army had prevented people from caring for their animals. Denied food and water, few of these animals survived.
Since the end of the curfew, several local journalists have been able to travel to Koruköy, who state that numerous houses had also been burned or demolished.
Some of the homes left standing are now riddled with bullet holes. Used cartridges and empty tear gas canisters litter the streets of the village.
The Turkish government willingly targets civilians, local deputies, and associations from majority Kurdish regions in its war against PKK combatants, which began again in 2015 after the end of a long truce. Ten HDP deputies, who were accused of being close to the PKK, are still in prison. One of them is Selahattin Demirtas, the co-president of the party.
A UN report on the human rights situation in southeastern Turkey published in February 2017 denounced “numerous cases of excessive use of force; killings; enforced disappearances; torture; destruction of housing and cultural heritage; incitement to hatred; prevention of access to emergency medical care, food, water and livelihoods; violence against women; and severe curtailment of the right to freedom of opinion and expression as well as political participation”, which had been taking place in the region since 2015. According to the authors of the report, “the most serious human rights violations reportedly occurred during periods of curfew, when entire residential areas were cut off and movement restricted around-the-clock for several days at a time.”
Note: the Observers are unable to independently verify the information presented here.