Turkey’s Interior Ministry has responded to a report by Amnesty International on tens of thousands of residents who were forced to leave their homes as a result of brutal crackdowns by the Turkish government, saying, “All measures taken as part of the fight against terror in the region were legitimate, necessary and proportionate.”
In a press statement on Monday, the ministry responded to Amnesty’s report titled “Displaced and Dispossessed: Sur residents’ right to return home,” which was released on Dec. 6 of last year.
Claiming that the Amnesty report does not reflect the truth, the Interior Ministry said that Turkey has become the target of baseless claims by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“The measures Turkey takes as part of fighting terrorism are legitimate, necessary and proportionate to protect its citizens from the PKK,” the ministry said.
Following the breakdown of a cease-fire in July 2015, clashes broke out between people affiliated with the outlawed PKK and Turkish security forces. In response to declarations of “self-governance,” the building of barricades and digging of trenches in Sur, the central district of Diyarbakır, and other towns across the Southeast, authorities began imposing 24-hour curfews and carrying out heavily militarized security operations.
On Dec. 11, 2015, an indefinite 24-hour curfew was declared in six of Sur’s 15 neighborhoods, preventing people from leaving their homes even to buy essential food or medical supplies. Police reportedly used loudspeakers to order people to leave. Water and electricity were cut for extended periods, while homes were rocked by army shells and peppered with bullets.
According to the Amnesty report, nearly 500,000 Kurds were displaced in Turkey’s Southeast due to curfews and the crackdown.
The clashes in Sur ended in March 2016, but the curfew has remained in large parts of the district. Following the forced evictions, almost all properties have been expropriated by Turkish authorities, with many buildings also demolished. Although return has been made almost impossible by the curfew and the destruction, some residents have ventured back only to find their homes ransacked and possessions looted or destroyed.
The Amnesty report said that Sur residents reject government claims that the ongoing curfew and house demolitions are being done in the interest of security given that the clashes ended over eight months ago. Instead they see them as part of a calculated plan to redevelop their neighborhoods and resettle them elsewhere.
Turkey is a party to a number of international and regional human rights treaties which require it to respect people’s rights to freedom of movement, adequate housing and other economic and social rights, as well as provide effective remedies for victims of human rights violations.