On Thursday, Amnesty International demanded an end to indefinite curfews imposed by the government in southeastern Turkey in recent months, to back military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The London-based rights group has accused Turkish security forces of “recklessly” using excessive force in its campaign against the Kurdish rebels, by way of heavy weaponry and snipers.
The PKK, which seeks self-determination for Turkey’s Kurdish population, renewed its rebellion against the government last July following the breakdown of a two-year ceasefire.
Civilians at risk
“The operations currently being conducted under round-the-clock curfews are putting the lives of tens of thousands of people at risk and are beginning to resemble collective punishment,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Program Director.
In its report, Amnesty said residents had been left without access to emergency health care, food, water and electricity for extended periods, due to the military clampdown.
The lives of up to 200,000 people are being put at risk by the action of Turkish security forces, the document said.
“Operations by police and the military…have been characterized by abusive use of force, including firing heavy weaponry in residential neighborhoods,” said the report, describing how residents were facing “extreme hardships…as a result of harsh and arbitrary measures.”
Violence resumed in southeastern Turkey last summer, particularly in Diyarbakir and Sirnak provinces.
Last month, the government launched an intense operation in those two provinces aimed at rooting out the PKK and its offshoots.
Almost 600 militants have been killed, according to the Turkish army. Dozens of members of the security forces have also died.
Additionally, more than 150 people have died in areas under curfew during fighting between government forces and the PKK’s armed youth wing, Amnesty said.
The government views the PKK as a terrorist organization and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said his objective is to “clean” the areas of the militants.