Protests against Turkey in Iraq’s northern Kurdish region turned violent on Sunday (Feb.7) as demonstrators called for the United Nations to intervene in what they described as Turkey’s “genocide” against the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK. Three police officers were wounded in scuffles.
PKK supporter Youssef Hamid explained why he was protesting:
“The goal of this demonstration is to tell the public and all the foreign NGOs about the Turkish attacks in Syria, Turkey and Iraq. All these attacks are targeting Kurdish people and they`re denying the existence of Kurdistan.”
Scores of PKK rebels killed
More than 700 PKK rebels have been reportedly killed in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast region in the towns of Cizre and Sur since a security operation by Turkish forces began in December. The group which has waged a decades-long insurgency against Ankara has also had its bases in northern Iraq.
Turkey’s interior minister claims that 99.5 percent of all the “terrorists nested in Cizre are about to be eliminated”. Many neighborhoods of Diyarbakır’s central Sur district have been under curfew since Dec. 2, 2015, while the curfew was imposed in Silopi and Cizre on Dec. 14.
Almost 90 percent of the population in Sur is estimated to have left their homes because of the fighting. Cizre has a population of around 120,000, of which 100,000 have left.
Ankara opened peace talks with jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in late 2012. But a two-year ceasefire collapsed in July after what the government said were attacks on security forces, plunging the region into its worst violence since the 1990s.
Around 300 members of the security forces have been killed in urban fighting and PKK attacks since July of last year.
Last week Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu unveiled what he billed as a new plan to bolster security and rebuild areas ravaged by conflict, but he also made it clear the PKK militant group would be sidelined unless it laid down its weapons.
The PKK which is considered a terrorist group by the US, EU as well as Turkey says it is fighting for Kurdish autonomy.