ANKARA (Hurriyet Daily News) — Ankara has been deliberately obscuring events going on in the restive southeastern district of Cizre, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtas has said, following reports that scores of civilians were killed in an operation against militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“Here is the situation in Cizre: There were 70-90 people in total in a few buildings around a cellar. There were no clashes but there was artillery fired [by the military],” Demirtas said on February 9.
“They committed a massacre in Cizre but they cannot announce it. They are scattering the dead bodies into side streets and ruined houses as if the dead bodies were already there,” he added.
Cizre, in the province of Sirnak, has been under a punishing curfew for six weeks as Turkish security forces pursue a relentless campaign against PKK militants. Reports have claimed that security forces raided a building in Cizre, killing up to 60 wounded people who had been sheltering there for more than a week.
However, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on February 8 dismissed claims that civilians were targeted, saying the state was “only fighting terrorists” and was “doing its best to cause no civilian casualties.”
HDP deputies had said dozens of wounded civilians were trapped in the cellar of the largely ruined building in Cizre, alleging that ambulances were being blocked from accessing the building and seven people had already died.
Davutoglu claimed that ambulances had been sent to the building but were unable to reach the wounded due to ongoing clashes. Most of those hiding in the basement were PKK members, he also said.
Meanwhile, the HDP announced on February 9 that two HDP deputies have been holding talks in Washington, while another deputy has been in Moscow in order to attend the opening of a representation office of Syrian Kurds.
Urfa deputy Osman Baydemir and Bingol deputy Hisyar Ozsoy, who also serves as the party’s deputy co-chair in charge of external affairs, are in Washington to hold “a series of diplomatic meetings,” the HDP said in a written statement.
Baydemir and Ozsoy had meetings scheduled with officials from the U.S. State Department and members of the U.S. Congress, and they will return to Turkey on February 14 after “a series of diplomatic meetings in New York too,” the party said.
The HDP also said Diyarbakir deputy Feleknas Uca had travelled to Moscow to attend the opening of a representative office of “Syrian Kurdistan.”
Last week, Farhat Patiev, the chair of the Council of the Federal National-Cultural Kurdish Autonomy, said a representative office of Syrian Kurdistan was due to open in Moscow on February 10.
Patiev had accompanied Demirtas during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on December 23.