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Cellar deaths highlight plight of Turkey town amid curfew

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkish troops stand guard as Kurdish residents flee after new curfews were imposed in the Sur district of Diyarbakir Province on Jan. 27, 2016. ©AFP

The deaths of six people holed up in a cellar have drawn global attention to the plight of citizens in Turkish towns which are under a curfew amid clashes between government forces and militants.  

Those who lost their lives were among a group of 28 people trapped in the basement of a building in Cizre in Sirnak Province for a week.

Turkey’s southeast has been tense since a two-year shaky ceasefire between Ankara and PKK militants collapsed following military operation against the militant group.

Since mid-December 2015, curfews have been imposed in the towns of Silopi and Cizre in Sirnak Province as part of the army operations against PKK militants, prompting angry reactions from residents in the Kurdish-majority areas.

Three members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) have gone on hunger strike in protest at the failure to rescue those trapped in Cizre, blaming the government for the worsening condition in the town.

A PKK militant stands at a barricade as people flee from the Sur district of Diyarbakir Province on Jan. 27, 2016. ©AP

“If there had been a sincere effort (to get them out), we would not be talking about six dead people today,” HDP Deputy Idris Baluken told a news conference in Ankara on Friday.

Ambulances belonging to the HDP-run municipality in Cizre had tried to reach the trapped people, but they were blocked at security force checkpoints, Baluken claimed.

“We are talking about the problems of our citizens who for seven days cannot find food, water or drugs, who have died due to blood loss because of the lack of intervention,” he added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, rejected Baluken’s accusations, blaming Kurdish militants for the fate of the trapped citizens and accusing the hunger striking HDP members of being servants of the PKK.

Ankara’s anti-PKK campaign began in the wake of a deadly bombing in the southern Turkish town of Suruc last July. More than 30 people died in the attack, which the Turkish government blamed on Daesh Takfiri terrorist group. 

After the incident, the PKK militants, who accuse the Turkish government of supporting Daesh, engaged in a series of what they view as reprisal attacks against Turkish police and security forces.


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