By Dominique Soguel, The Associated Press, March 2, 2016
The following Associated Press article appears in the Toronto Star, a rare case of Canada’s mainstream media reporting on the grim civil war being waged by the NATO-member government of Turkey against the Kurdish population in the east of the country. Mainstream media in Canada, however, remains silent about the widespread attacks by the Turkish government against journalists.–New Cold War.org
CIZRE, TURKEY—The stench of death and the smell of gunpowder rose from mounds of rubble Wednesday as residents of the Turkish town of Cizre returned to find many of their homes obliterated amid Turkey’s efforts to crush Kurdish militants.
Cizre is one of a handful of mainly southeastern Kurdish districts where Turkey’s security forces, backed by tanks, have been fighting militants linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The militants want autonomy for Kurds in Turkey’s southeast and had raised barricades, dug trenches and planted explosives to protect areas where they had aspired for self-rule.
On Wednesday, the Turkish military eased the 24-hour curfew it imposed on Dec. 14. The reprieve comes three weeks after authorities declared the successful end of military operations to stamp out the rebels.
The town of 132,000 near the banks of the Tigris River and the borders of Syria and Iraq has been the worst hit in terms of the scale of the fighting and the casualty toll. The level of damage seen in some neighbourhoods Wednesday evoked the early days of the war in neighbouring Syria, with buildings gutted by shelling or partially collapsed.
The army says more than 600 Kurdish rebels were killed in Cizre. Human rights groups say 92 civilians were killed in the town during the military operation and another 171 bodies have been found since hostilities halted Feb. 11.
The first wave of residents reached the town at dawn Wednesday, their vehicles loaded with personal belongings and children. Police carefully inspected their documents as well as the contents of their cars and bags.
What the returnees found shocked them.
Shell casings littered the battle-scared streets of the Sur neighbourhood, where residents made a grisly discovery — the corpse of an unidentifiable male. The stench of death also rose from a collapsed building in the same area. Residents said security forces had demolished the building’s basement, which was being used a shelter.
“Those who did this are not human,” said Cizre resident Serif Ozem. “What took place here is a second Kobani in a country that is supposed to be a democracy.”
Kobani is a predominantly Kurdish town in northern Syria that suffered a brutal siege at the hands of Daesh, also known as ISIS and ISIL.
Amnesty International says the curfews amount to “collective punishment.”
During the curfew in Cizre, some people stayed put in the worst-hit neighbourhoods while others fled.
Ayse Magi, a mother of five who sought safety elsewhere in the town, inspected the damage to her modest home with tears in her eyes Wednesday. Two mortars had punctured the ceiling of her bathroom and the hallway.
“There is no way we can live here,” she told The Associated Press.
The government says more than 300 security force members have died fighting Kurdish rebels since July.
Advocacy groups, meanwhile, repeatedly expressed concern over the high number of civilian casualties amid the government military operation. Ozturk Turkdogan, who heads the Ankara-based Human Rights Association, said an additional 171 bodies have been retrieved from three basements in Cizre since Turkey declared the battle over.
“We believe that these people were unarmed and civilians,” he said.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has promised to reconstruct Cizre and other districts ruined by the fighting.
The PKK, considered a terror group by Turkey and its allies, has been waging an insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since then. A fragile two-year-old peace process with the rebels broke down in July.
Nurettin Guler, a 55-year old who stayed in Cizre amid the worst fighting, was pessimistic about the next phase.
“They say the operations have ended but we just don’t know,” he told the AP. “If peace isn’t achieved . . . it’s not over.”
Freed Turkish journalist Can Dündar calls his release a defeat for President Erdogan as he faces another probe, Today’s Zaman, March 2, 2016
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