Kurds under curfew in south-east Turkey urge Europe to end conflict

The anger at Europe's inaction is palpable in the historic Sur district of Diyarbakir in south-eastern Turkey where fighters of the youth wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) have barricaded the streets.

"Why doesn't the German government do something?" Guler Seviktek asks. Her 25-year-old brother Mesut was shot by government forces while fighting for the youth wing, known as the YDG-H, shortly before Christmas.

Seviktek holds President Recep Tayyip Erdogan responsible for conditions of civil war in what she terms Kurdistan, as she holds up a photograph of her brother showing an earnest young man with glasses.  

"Germany, England, France, they're all responsible just like Erdogan, because they support him and do nothing to halt the escalation of violence," says Sahide Oran, mother of 21-year-old Isa, who was killed at the same time.

The two women are on hunger strike to secure the release of the young men's bodies for burial.

By no means are all the Kurds holding Erdogan solely responsible. "Those digging up old graves are to blame," says a young father. "But of course the state's reaction should not be so extreme."

He has just returned his sick baby to his wife on the other side of the police lines after taking the child to a doctor.

She, the 3-month-old baby and her daughter remained in their home in the area under curfew for the past 50 days in Sur after he left a week ago.

"If my wife leaves, the police will not allow her back in, and we have nowhere to go," says the man who declines to give his name and pleads for photographs taken of him to be deleted.

Most of Diyarbakir's large Kurdish population are wary of giving their names to the press.

Ozan, a 13-year-old at the police line, is more than willing to talk. "My mother is inside, but the police won't let me in," the boy says. "I haven't seen my mother for 40 days," he says.

Ozan, who is small for his age, got stuck on the wrong side of the barrier one day while returning home from school. He now lives with his uncle.

"I phone her, and it rings, but no one answers," he says. The YDG-H could well recruit Ozan in years to come, as his hatred of the Turkish state is already evident.

"Filthy police," he hisses in an undertone so that the security forces cannot hear him. "They don't like Kurds. They see us as the enemy."

Police move journalists on. "Go and spy somewhere else," one officer calls out in anger. The security forces decline to speak to foreign journalists.

Since January 3, Kendal Ozgun has been in a wheelchair. His brother Bilal has brought him to see a human rights organization in the city to help find him a lawyer.

Ozgun tells how he went to the aid of a woman outside the cordoned off zone in Sur who was being harassed by police. One of the officers put a hand on his head, drew his pistol and shot him twice, once in the right knee and again in the left calf.

The 25-year-old pulls up his tracksuit to show the wounds, his brother helping him to rise.

Women in the district took him to a hospital, but they are now refusing to make a statement to the police for fear of reprisal.

The hospital told him on discharge that he could only have a medical certificate on the authority of the state prosecutor's office - that certificate is necessary for him to lay a charge.

The doctors believe that he will never walk again. Ozgun has had to sell his kebab restaurant. "I have nothing left," he says.

His brother is open about his anger. "Anyone expressing opposition to Erdogan lands in jail," he says, accusing the president of sitting in his palace and "having people executed."

"We're being attacked because we are Kurds," Bilal Ozgun says.

Last update: Tue, 19/01/2016 - 21:19


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