— The Erimtan Angle —

‘Armored vehicles patrolling the streets, reports of starvation looming and civilians killed – a small pro-Kurdish town of Silvan has become a hotspot after the Turkish military launched and operation on November 3. The curfew has entered its second week. Published on Nov 12, 2015’.

The report reads as follows: ‘Armored vehicles patrolling the streets, reports of starvation looming and civilians killed – a small pro-Kurdish town of Silvan has become a hotspot after the Turkish military launched an operation on November 3. The curfew has entered its second week. The city neighborhoods of Tekel, Mescit and Konak have been mostly hit by the shelling as journalists at the scene reported of shattered glass, debris in the streets and bullet-riddled buildings. “Witnesses said the police had started shooting at the tea house out of the blue,” said Omer Onen, the co-chair of HDP’s Diyarbakir office, as cited by AFP. “There is no access to communication, people are at risk of starvation. They [Turkish military] didn’t give us any permission to distribute food”’.[1]

Two months ago, the Economist reported that “EASTERN Turkey has been paralysed for weeks by clashes between government forces and Kurdish extremists. Now violence is spreading to the rest of the country. Roadside bombs laid by Kurdish fighters killed 30 soldiers and policemen on September 6th and 8th. Bent on revenge, nationalist crowds waving Turkish flags attacked offices of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). In the Mediterranean resort of Alanya, protesters burned a building that housed its provincial headquarters. In Ankara, the capital, a group of fanatics broke into the national party office and tried to set it on fire. In many places small businesses owned by Kurds have been torched. In the west and centre of the country, angry crowds stopped coaches travelling to the largely Kurdish regions in the south-east, threatening passengers and breaking windows. Offices of the Hürriyet newspaper, which has been accused of distorting statements by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, were surrounded on two occasions by demonstrators wielding stones and clubs. Two years of talks between the central government and independence-minded Kurds seem definitively over. Strife reignited in July and military operations are gathering pace in several cities. The town of Cizre where ten people died, including children, is under curfew as soldiers conduct door-to-door searches and try to regain control of areas held by militants”.[2]  At the time, the town of Cizre was a scene of escalating violence between the Turkish Army and members of the country’s Kurdish minority. Still, the report also stated that “[i]n Silvan, a town of 46,000 people 80km (50 miles) from Diyarbakir, masked youths last month dug trenches and erected barricades. They controlled access to several districts for a nearly a week. ‘As a Kurd you are insulted, your culture is ignored and you are not seen as human being’, says a 27-year-old female sympathiser, praising the fighters. ‘For seven days, there was great resistance. Young people stood up and staked their ground’. On August 15th [2015] the town’s co-mayors, following the lead of other municipalities in the region, declared self-rule. Three days later armoured military vehicles launched an assault on Silvan. Electricity and communication networks were shut down and a curfew declared as troops battled young militants in narrow streets. Pockmarked houses, broken windows and the burnt shell of a shop testify to the violence that ensued. ‘He died in this corner’, says a resident in his 60s, pointing to a spot on a roof terrace where a 25-year-old man was shot during a stand-off, apparently by an army sniper. A water tank riddled with bullet holes stands empty nearby. With its most recent attacks, the PKK, which is deemed a terrorist group in the EU and America, has upped the ante. Observers say until now it has committed only limited resources to the recent fighting in Turkey. Most of its trained troops are busy in Syria, opposing Islamic State (IS) through a Kurdish affiliate, the People’s Defence Units. The Turkish military is supposedly also committed to fighting IS. Still Ahmet Davutoglu, the prime minister, has vowed to ‘wipe out’ the Kurdish fighters, and warplanes have launched attacks on their camps in northern Iraq. In Silvan municipal workers are slowly filling in trenches and young militants have faded back into the population, at least for the time being”.[3]

Now, following Turkey’s November Surprise,[4] which firmly cemented Tayyip Erdoğan as President (aka the Prez) with Ahmed Davutoğlu apparently staying put as wily PM (aka Wily) for now, the gloves have come off and the town is under siege. Alex MacDonald reports that the “Turkish military has deployed helicopters and tanks against the town [of Silvan], which has been under curfew for nine days, and locals have warned that its 90,000 residents are running low on food, water and electricity. At least seven people, including two civilians and a policeman, were reportedly killed as members of the Patriotic Revolutionist Youth Movement (YDG-H) – usually referred to as the youth wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) – fought with Turkish forces.YDG-H members have erected barricades and closed off streets, often armed with AK-47s”.[5]  MacDonald explains that “Turkey’s southeast has been in a state of unrest since a two-year ceasefire between the Turkish state and the PKK ended in July [2015]. Since then, over 150 Turkish police and security officials have been killed in clashes with Kurdish fighters, while the military claimed to have killed well over 1,000 PKK fighters, mostly in northern Iraq, but also in Turkey – though the PKK disputes these figures. As the security situation deteriorated and an increasing number of Kurdish politicians and activists have found themselves behind bars. Numerous towns and districts in the southeast have begun to declare political autonomy from the state. Though the HDP has sought to distance itself from the YDG-H, Turkish security officials have often conflated the two, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on more than one occasion referring to votes for the HDP as a vote for a ‘terrorist organisation’. Mahmut Bozarslan, a Kurdish journalist who recently left Silvan, said that the military was trying to re-assert its authority over the area following the declarations of autonomy”.[6]  Bozarslan stated to the press that “People are getting angry with this situation . . . They blame both sides – some people said that if the PKK did not bring this violence within the cities, the state would not react like this . . . On the other hand, some people blame the security officials, they say if they didn’t put this pressure on Kurds, the PKK would not have brought the strategy of sieges and barricades to the cities”.[7]

[1] “‘Erasing from map’? Scenes of destruction as Turkish military besiege Kurdish town of Silvan (VIDEO) ” RT News (11-12 November 2015). https://www.rt.com/news/321588-turkey-silvan-kurdish-curfew/.

[2] “The hatred never went away” The Economist (12 September 2015). http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21664225-civilians-join-fight-between-soldiers-and-guerrillas-burying-years-calm-hatred-never.

[3] “The hatred never went away”.

[4] “Turkey’s November Surprise: A Mandate for a Post-Kemalist Century” The Erimtan Angle (04 November 2015). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2015/11/04/turkeys-november-surprise-a-mandate-for-a-post-kemalist-century/.

[5] Alex MacDonald, “Turkey’s Silvan under siege as Kurdish fighters assert authority” Middle East Eye (11 November 2015). http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/turkish-town-silvan-under-siege-kurdish-fighters-assert-authority-906806398#sthash.0Bu7zoq9.dpuf.

[6] Alex MacDonald, “Turkey’s Silvan under siege as Kurdish fighters assert authority”.

[7] Alex MacDonald, “Turkey’s Silvan under siege as Kurdish fighters assert authority”.

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