Turkey: Erdogan pushes all-out war against civilians

The Kurdish-majority town of Silvan has been under curfew and siege since November 2.

The Turkish government has declared all-out war against the residents of the Kurdish-majority town of Silvan (Farqin) in Diyarbakir (Amed) province. The town has been under curfew and siege since November 2.

Artillery and military aircraft have been deployed by Turkish military and paramilitary forces. Residents have reported Arabic-speaking bearded terrorists — presumed to be ISIS — taking part in the attacks.

Hopes that such government violence would end after the November 1 Turkish elections have been shattered.

The elections were a mixed result for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP). Attacks by the Turkish military and police, and Islamist terrorists, against supporters of the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), leftists and the Kurdish population ensured that the AKP won the majority that it failed to win in the earlier June 7 election.

However, the HDP still passed the 10% threshold needed to gain representation in parliament.

In response to the curfews and massacres, several communities in Turkish Kurdistan declared themselves to be under self-rule. The Turkish state response began with the mass arrest of local politicians.

Sendika.Org said on November 11: “However, the arrest of mayors seeking more democratic rule than the central government appointed governors was not enough for the Turkish police state. It has been attacking, with heavy artillery fire in most cases, the people involved in the democratic self-rule.”

The assault on Silvan signals Erdogan is continuing this war following the election.

The number of civilians killed is unknown. About 10 deaths have been recorded, but the real figure is probably much higher.

“No concrete information can be received from the neighbourhoods as all means of communication have been restricted amidst a heavy siege by police and military forces,” Firat News Agency (ANF) reported on November 11.

Local parliamentarian Sibel Yigitalp told ANF on November 9 that the siege was depriving residents of basic needs. She likened the situation, with tanks and soldiers deployed on the streets, to a military coup.

Silvan deputy co-mayor Zuhal Tekiner told ANF that the Mescit and Tekel neighbourhoods were suffering aerial bombardment.

“There is … intense activity of helicopters over both neighbourhoods from which we can receive no news,” she said. “We do not know what is happening in these areas but we see rising smoke caused by the bombs fired there. We are guessing that some houses have been demolished.”

ANF said on November 11 that aerial attacks on civilians were intensifying. From loudspeakers on mosques and armoured vehicles, police announced: “Evacuate the neighbourhoods, otherwise we will shoot you all.”

There have been persistent reports over the past two years of the Turkish state supporting ISIS in neighbouring Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan). Now, ISIS terrorists have been seen in Silvan alongside Turkish police and military.

Staff at a local hospital told ANF on November 11: “Some men in special operation teams' uniforms have brought wounded 'security officials' to the hospital for treatment. These men, who have long beards like ISIS members, were obviously foreigners and speaking Arabic among each other.”

HDP MP Mehmet Ali Aslan made similar claims to Med Nuce TV.

Another HDP MP, Ayse Acar Basaran, condemned the international silence on the assault on Silvan. She told ANF on November 9: “How can the people be subject to such atrocity because of declaring self-rule? Will this fair demand of the people be responded to by tanks? Will hundreds of people be massacred for voicing such a democratic right?

“The world public opinion must see the brutality of the AKP government. Kurds remain under a huge encirclement and are suffering murders in Silvan. People are waiting for their death under intense bombardments and artillery fire.

“International organisations should see the developments and come to Silvan. If the silence on this case continues, we might suffer greater pains soon.”

HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş told Med Nuce TV on November 11 that Silvan would resist the state assault using all means possible.

“The town is surrounded by armoured vehicles and reports are coming through of strikes by helicopters,” Demirtas said. “This is not a matter of 'a police operation for the sake of public order'. There is urban fighting … by the military in addition to police forces…

“The Kurdish people will take no steps backward … the demand of millions of people cannot be treated as terrorism. The people of Silvan are protecting and defending their will and the Kurdish people's right to self-rule and autonomy. This demand is also in the program of our party that stands by the resistance of the Kurdish people.”

His words were echoed by Ekin Firat, a young urban resistance fighter in Silvan, who said: “The state is attacking and killing our people here with its tanks and artillery weapons. We are here to serve as a self-defence force but our civilian people are also resisting here alongside us…

“Our goal is not to dig trenches alone, but rather to show that we can triumph over the state's techniques by means of trenches which form a defence against the attacks targeting our people.

“These are areas where we protect our people from the state's atrocity. These are areas where we produce solutions to problems not settled by the state.

“The atrocity committed here doesn't target only Silvan people, it is also aimed at all the women around the world. We therefore call upon all women to support and embrace this resistance.

“We want it to be known very well that our goal is not to split the country. We want Turkish and Kurdish peoples together and living freely on these lands, and together waving the two flags.”

Like the article? Subscribe to Green Left now! You can also like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

If you like our work, become a supporter

Green Left is a vital social-change project and aims to make all content available online, without paywalls. With no corporate sponsors or advertising, we rely on support and donations from readers like you.

For just $5 per month get the Green Left digital edition in your inbox each week. For $10 per month get the above and the print edition delivered to your door. You can also add a donation to your support by choosing the solidarity option of $20 per month.

Freecall now on 1800 634 206 or follow the support link below to make a secure supporter payment or donation online.