Curfews reimposed, journalists detained in Diyarbakir as HDP calls for negotiations with Ocalan

Turkish authorities imposed curfews imposed Friday in the Kurdish towns of Sur and Kerboran. Police detained five journalists in Diyarbakir as Kurdish politicians called for an end to the rising violence.

DIYARBAKIR (K24) - Less than a day after Turkish authorities lifted a nine-day long curfew, a new curfew was issued on Friday in the historic district of Sur in the city of Diyarbakir, in Northern Kurdistan (SE Turkey).

It is the sixth curfew order declared in Sur (read: Soor) in the last two months, in the aftermath of the November 1 Turkish parliamentary elections in which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) regained one-party rule in a sweeping victory by getting almost fifty-percent of all the votes.

The sub-governorate of the Sur district justified the curfew in a statement online on its website Friday that "there are obstacles created by the members of the armed terrorist organisation in delivering educational, health and religious services because of barricades, trenches and bomb traps." The statement said, "to ensure public safety and avoid civilian loss of life a curfew has been put in place, effective on 6 PM Thursday" in six of the 15 neighbourhoods in Sur including Cevatpasa, Fatihpasa, Dabanoglu, Hasirli, Cemal Yilmaz and Savas neighbourhoods and the Gazi Avenue.

Turkish authorities employ the phrases "the terrorist organisation" or "the separatist terror organisation" to euphemistically refer to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) without mentioning its name.

During the earlier curfew, for much of last week and this week in the area, 10 people, including suspected armed members of the PKK-affiliated Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDGH) and two Turkish police officers, were killed and 35 others, mostly civilians, were wounded in the, at times, intense urban clashes.

A K24 team who went inside Sur district saw bullet-ridden houses, burnt cars, infrastructural devastation on the streets, broken water pipes and power lines, massive damage caused by clashes, and fire to the outer walls and inside of the Kursunlu Mosque, a 16th century Ottoman landmark.

A group of local and regional Kurdish politicians made up of the co-mayor of Metropolitan Diyarbakir, Firat Anli, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) parliamentarians Cagla Demirel and the Kurdish-Yazidi MP Feleknas Uca visited the central Sur on Friday and made a press statement in front of the ravaged Kursunlu Mosque. The co-mayor, Firat, condemned the violence and demanded an end to operations conducted by government forces in urban areas.

On Saturday another group of Kurdish politicians and activists headed by the deputy chairperson of the HDP parliamentary group of the Turkish Parliament, Idris Baluken gathered in the Dagkapi square close to the neighbourhoods under the reimposed curfew and called for an end to violence. Idris Baluken, standing in front of police barricades meant to prevent access to Sur, called on the central Ankara government to "send civilians to Imrali instead of sending armed forces here [city centres]." Baluken demanded negotiations take place between the Turkish government and the imprisoned Kurdish PKK leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

Imrali is the name of the island in the inland Sea of Marmara in Northwestern Turkey where the PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan is jailed since his capture in 1999. Imrali is often used in Turkish and Kurdish political and journalistic spheres to refer to the influential leader.

At least 20,000 people have left the central Sur district in the last two weeks according to the Goc Der Amed, a Kurdish association working to help internally displaced persons (IDP). The population of Sur is more than 120,000 according to the Turkish population census conducted in 2014.

At a time when people in Diyarbakir are being displaced because of intense clashes that are beginning to look more and more like the initial phase of an urban warfare, a refugee from Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) who has settled in Diyarbakir since last year told K24 that he doesn't know where to take his family next. "There is war in all countries," the man in his 30s, who refused to give his name, said.

Another man who left his home in Sur told K24 that he was stuck for ten days in his house with little food and water. "I couldn't get out for the fear of being shot by police snipers," he said.

Meanwhile, five journalists including Ferit Dere and Elifcan Alkan, working for the Kurdish-language Azadiya Welat daily (Freedom of the Homeland), Pınar Sagnaç Kalkan of the Ozgur Halk Magazine, and Erkan Yildirim of Aram publications were detained in Sur by the Turkish Anti-Terror Police Department of the city of Diyarbakir. A K24 correspondent based in Diyarbakir reported no explanation was provided by the police as to why the journalists were held.

Elsewhere in Northern Kurdistan, the sub-governorate of the town of Kerboran (Dargecit in Turkish) 110 kilometers north-east of the provincial city of Mardin declared on Friday night that a curfew has been put in place effective until further notification. Intermittent clashes were reported by locals in the town of some 30, 000 people, K24 bureau in Diyarbakir reported.


(Hesen Kako and Siddiq Eren contributed to this report from Diyarbakir)