Scottish MP Natalie McGarry’s brief questioning by police in Turkey’s Diyarbakır made the headlines in the British press. McGarry last week visited the city as part of a GMB delegation, a leftist UK labor union that demands the release of Abdullah Öcalan, leader of extreme Kurdish militant organization PKK, from prison.
McGarry penned an article about her observations and experience in the Scottish paper the National. McGarry’s op-ed contains bizarre factual mistakes that need to be addressed.
In the past three months during a military curfew and lockdown on six neighbourhoods in the ancient, walled district of Sur, 10,000 people have lost their jobs as 3,000 local businesses have been closed and 50,000 people have fled their homes, at l east half of which have been destroyed. It is impossible to tell how many people have so far lost their lives. There is a ring of steel, sandbags, tanks and a rag-tag military armed with guns that marks the demarcation line.
Walk around the city, the markets and stalls bright with fresh vegetables and fish, and you could be forgiven for not realising that just streets away bombs, tanks and gunfire are the soundtrack to a bloody 90-day attack by the Turkish military on the district of Sur.
McGarry, in an appalling way, invents a story on her own, as if the Turkish army spontaneously, possibly out of anti-Kurdish hatred, targeted a neighborhood in Diyarbakır’s Sur, and left the rest of the city untouched. In fact, the PKK’s youth wing last year dug trenches, built barricades, set up IEDs and then deployed seasoned snipers as an extra “ line of defense ” while declaring that it does not recognize state authority over the neighborhood. The PKK’s aim was to bring some sort of self-rule to the neighborhood, which the Turkish state, of course, could not accept.
Turkish President Erdogan has justified the curfews on Sur and other towns, like Czire and Silopi, by saying that PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) terrorists are hiding within communities in the areas on lockdown, and any organisations I speak to freely admit there are perhaps 25 young guerrillas in Sur, amongst a civilian population of 200 trapped in basements.
Erdogan’s government, however, appear unconcerned about trials and capture, as demonstrated in Czire. Pleas to the governor to allow a civilian delegation to go in to Sur to bring the people out have been denied – including a denial of our request to meet hem. By any standard, this is state-sponsored execution by starvation, fire or the denial of medical aid.
We don’t doubt the veracity of McGarry’s interviews, but she is mistaken. She is underestimating the PKK force in the area by saying “there are 25 young guerillas in Sur.” On the contrary, the Turkish Army stated that over 200 militants were killed in the city and over 60 members of Turkish security forces also killed in the last three months in the district.
Secondly, the Turkish government, contrary to McGarry’s claim, is very concerned about trials and capture. This is why Turkish security forces periodically call upon militants to lay down their weapons and surrender.
There is even a video showing very clearly that Turkish security forces allow PKK militants to give themselves up even immediately after a violent clash.
Finally, the Diyarbakır Governor also suspended security operations two times last month, on February 24 and 26, to allow civilians, if there are any, to leave the aforementioned district via a secure corridor. Multiple news outlets reported that no civilians left the area .
The same Governor’s office later released a statement explaining that, by taking advantage of the absence of security forces, PKK militants placed new explosives in the areas that Turkish security forces retreated from in order to allow civilians to leave.
The peace process – which is supported by every organisation to which our delegation of civil society and trades union reps spoke – failed last summer; cynically timed for just before the elections in what some international observers have described as a deliberate move by Erdogan as he recklessly gambles with the stability of Turkey for personal ambition.
The return to violence has been swift, and the reaction to state violence has seen a call to arms by a disaffected youth.
This is also a completely false statement. As we previously reported in this website, countlessly in fact, the PKK unilaterally ended the ceasefire in early July and then conducted terrorist attacks against security forceswhich renewed the conflict.