The Turks have begun another massacre in Kurdistan, this time bigger than before, and imposing curfews to pin down their victims. It is the latest demonstration of Turkey's 90-year-old extermination campaign against the Kurdish population.
In Turkey's Kurdistan, since August 16, there have been 52 open-ended, round-the-clock curfews affecting 17 towns, in which approximately 1,299,061 people reside (2014 population census), according to the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV). Those are predominantly Kurdish towns.
During these curfews, the Turkish military and police have targeted, terrorized and demolished entire Kurdish neighborhoods. The curfews are accompanied by military assaults against civilian populations – their homes, businesses, offices, historical monuments, reservoirs and infrastructure, are being bombed and destroyed. As Ziya Pir, a deputy of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said: "The soldiers, police or some unregistered people that I call 'head hunters' rake through everything from top to bottom wherever they see life."
The Turks are using aerial bombardment, sniper fire, artillery fire, tanks, helicopters and thousands of soldiers. When someone is wounded or gets seriously sick, and their family members need to take them to hospital, they are shot by snipers, or sometimes they are shot just at the windows of their homes.
In the Kurdish town of Silopi, police vehicles broadcast announcements that it is forbidden to look out of the windows.
The latest victims of the curfews and assaults are the Kurdish districts of Sur in Diyarbakir, Nusaybin in Mardin and Cizre and Silopi in Sirnak.
The Kurdish town of Cizre in Turkey has been indiscriminately bombarded by Turkish security forces. Many homes have been heavily damaged or destroyed. Photographic evidence from an earlier assault in September shows many buildings and vehicles in the town riddled with bullet holes.
On December 14, 3,000 teachers working in Silopi and Cizre left the towns after they received an SMS message from Turkey's ministry of national education. Teachers were told in the message that they would be included in an in-service training program, and that they could receive this training in their hometowns.
Most of these teachers are Turks whom the government sent to teach the children of the Kurdish towns. After the departure of the teachers, the towns were attacked by Turkish army units. Now the homes of Kurdish children in these towns are bombed and devastated.
On December 21, 11-year old Mehmet Mete was murdered in his home by tank fire. "He was heavily wounded in his head with a shrapnel piece. But as ambulances could not go there and take him to hospital, he lost his life," said Kurdish MP Aycan Irmez.
"After declaring the curfew, they [the Turks] deploy soldiers, police and snipers in the evacuated schools," Osman Tetik, a Cizre representative of the Education and Science Workers' Union (Egitim-Sen) told the daily Evrensel. "They have piled up their ammunition inside the schools. The state uses schools as arsenals."
"The teachers from Cizre are still here. That means this state only values the lives of teachers that come from western Turkey. And it sees no harm in murdering the Kurdish citizens and Kurdish teachers here.
"They are shooting the interior of the city with tanks. They are raking through the neighborhoods from their armored vehicles. Everyone who goes out to the streets or even to their balconies is targeted. Hediye Sen was murdered by police when she went to the garden of her house, which is very close to where we are. We can contact some of our friends. No one can go outside.
"The electricity has been out since yesterday. Our phones will be dead. We have started to run out of our basic needs. Our water is running out. The food at homes is running out. We have been having lots of problems with the internet connection. The telephone lines have been cut. The situation here is terrible."
Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on December 15 that, "all those towns will be cleansed of terror elements. If necessary, neighborhood by neighborhood, house by house, street by street."
After his statement, the towns of Cizre and Silopi in Sirnak came under major military attacks. "The Turkish military is out in full force in Sirnak," an MP from the Kurdish HDP party, Ferhat Encu, told Gatestone Institute. "This is an offensive to destroy a whole city. The attacks come with tanks, helicopters, heavy artillery and go on non-stop. There are sharpshooters on every roof: houses, the municipal building, the hospital. No one can go out."
Since July, 44 Kurdish children have been murdered and 52 wounded, all due to state violence, according to a report entitled, "We do not want War! We do not want you to Kill Children!" The youngest was three and a half months old.
During operations in Silopi, the Turkish "security" forces were heard playing songs of Ottoman military bands through the loudspeakers of their vehicles.
The Turkish military are not only bombing Kurdish civilian areas but also breaking down the doors of homes with sledgehammers. One was the house of the Kurdish MP, Ferhat Encu. "Even though I told them I am a parliamentary deputy, they entered the house and pointed a gun at me," Encu said. "They tried to arrest me. When I asked them the reason, they did not say anything. They told me to ask the governor. But we cannot contact the governor."
Videos and photographs coming from the region show that the Turkish military are attacking the towns with tanks from the hills and in every street.
People cannot even bury their dead.
On December 18, while returning home from a neighbor's home, Taybet Inan, 57, a mother of 11, was murdered by sharpshooters in Silopi. Her family started its struggle, trying to take her body from the street. Her brother-in-law, Yusuf Inan, tried to help; sharpshooters killed him in the garden of his house. When Inan's husband also tried, he too was shot. Her son, Mehmet Inan, said the family was keeping the body of Yusuf Inan in the basement.
"The prosecutor and the police told us we could get my mother's body from the street if we held a white flag," said Mehmet Ianan "but when we went outside, there were bullets fired even at that."
On December 25 -- seven days after Taybet Inan was murdered -- her family was finally able to retrieve her body, and put it, with their uncle's, in the morgue of the hospital.
The families of Resit Eren, 17, and Axîn Kant, 16, murdered in Silopi, are keeping their bodies, with some ice beside them, at a local mosque.
Seyfettin Aydemir, the co-mayor of Silopi, told Gatestone Institute that in Silopi a group of 60 people -- mostly children -- have had to hide, with little water and food, in the basement of a house. "Since the curfew started, many people have been murdered. When the electricity is cut, there is no ice; the bodies start to rot."
Health employees have to work under conditions in which they have no safety, said Gonul Erden, the co-President of the Trade Union of Public Employees in Health and Social Services. "At the entrances of hospitals, instead of ambulances, water cannon vehicles and armored police vehicles are waiting. They are shooting bullets at hospitals and ambulances," she said. "The Ministry of Health is standing by as hospitals are turned into military quarters and as health institutions and employees become targets."
The death toll is rising every day. In Silopi, Ayse Buruntekin, 40, a mother of 9, were shot dead by special operations police when she went to the roof of her house.
In Cizre, Zeynep Yilmaz, 45, and Hediye Cete, a mother of 3, were murdered.
Guler Yamalak, 8 months pregnant, was shot by Turkish armed forces as she tried to take her son, who had broken his wrist after a fall, for treatment. She has lost her baby.
Meanwhile, JINHA news agency reported that the special operations police are seizing the property of residents. Sait Uzen, a hotel owner, for instance, said that his hotel in Cizre has been seized by police and he and his family evacuated. "They swore at me and insulted me. They told me that 'if you don't leave, and if you create problems, we will destroy here with tanks." The hotel has been turned into military quarters.
The curfews and military assaults against Kurdish civilians have reportedly forced at least 200,000 Kurds to flee.
The family of Derya T. from the Kurdish district of Nusaybin, has been exposed to five curfews since August 6. Once the curfew was lifted, she went to Uludere in Sirnak where her relatives reside. "We were left without water," she told Today's Zaman. "All of the power transformers exploded. I have seven children. They cannot go to school. They are now in a severe depression. They had to drink water we generally use for the toilets. All of them got sick. We could not take them to the hospital because of the curfew. I sent my children to different relatives. My house is full of bullet holes. There is virtually no house without bullet holes in the district. Everyone there lives in fear."
In the Sur district of Diyarbakir, Hasret Sen, the 11-year-old daughter of Ekrem Sen, was shot dead while going to the bakery to buy some bread. Sen said that no one could dare take the dead body from the street for 15 minutes.
The Kurdish press is another target of the military siege. Kurdish journalist Beritan Canozer, who works for the JINHA (Women' News Agency) for instance, was first taken into custody while following up news in Diyarbakir because "she looked nervous." Then she was jailed due to "her social media posts."
Until recently, the government said that the curfews were imposed to "remove ditches and barricades erected by terrorists." But on December 19, Prime Minister Davutoglu changed his mind. "Even if the ditches and barricades are removed, we will not withdraw; we will stay there," he said.
The Turkish military may now be destroying the Kurdish homeland because Kurdish mayors and politicians in some Kurdish towns recently announced that they would like to exercise their right to self-rule.
In late August -- as a response to the brutal state violence in Kurdish towns -- Kurds started announcing self-governance in those districts where the municipalities are already administered by democratically-elected Kurdish mayors. Kurds have been asking for their own free autonomous administration in Turkey's Kurdistan. They have been asking for schools where they will be taught in the Kurdish language -- without the language prohibitions, terror and murders of the Turkish state authorities.
Turkish prosecutors, meanwhile, have opened investigations against Kurdish MPs or officials of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Peoples' Party (HDP) and Democratic Regions Party (DBP).
Many Kurdish mayors have been removed from their posts by Turkey's Ministry of Interior or arrested by police. Ruken Yetiskin and Tacettin Safali, co-mayors of the Kurdish town of Yuksekova, were removed from their posts for participating in a statement to the press in which the Kurds' decision of self-rule was declared on August 13. Seyid Narin, and Fatma Şık Barut, co-mayors of Sur, Yuksel Bodakci, co-mayor of Silvan, and Ali Riza Cicek, co-president of the Sur district of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP), among others, were arrested on August 19, after making declarations on self-rule, for "disrupting the unity and integrity of the state."
Turkish authorities have apparently been deeply disturbed by the success of the pro-Kurdish HDP party in the June and November elections, in which they got 10.76% of votes and prevented the ruling AKP Party from reaching a super-majority.
The towns and cities under attack are predominantly Kurdish. Turkey, history shows, is not happy that the Kurds exist -- just like it has not been happy with the existence of other non-Turkish communities.
Meanwhile, on December 18, the HDP leader, Selahattin Demirtas, commented at a press conference on the military operations against Kurdish towns:
"The Prime Minister and President, who after challenging Putin for just one or two days have turned into pipsqueaks... The President, who challenged the world by sending soldiers to Mosul, then withdrew his soldiers like a jellyfish... The President first said 'One minute!' to Israel and then made a 20-million-dollar deal with it.... Do you become tough guys only when it comes to Kurdish people?
"You are blowing up houses and mosques with your tanks. Even that is not enough for you. You say to your media outlets that people here (in Diyarbakir) burned a mosque. But the mosque in Diyarbakir was not burned by us, it was burned by the state's forces.
"Nothing the government does has a legal basis. What can people do in the face of a state that does not recognize the law? The state itself is acting illegally.
"If the President and the Prime Minister are doing illegal things, then where can we go for help? To the prosecutors? They are in prison. The government even arrests writers and members of the press. So the youths are digging ditches? The people are setting up barricades? Show them another way and they will do that instead."
Hulusi Akar, the Turkish chief of general staff, has also gone to Sirnak and is reportedly leading the operation there.
The goal of such ethnic cleansing, it seems, as in all such ethnic cleansings here, is to further someone's dreams of "Turkification" and Islamization.
Prof. Sebnem Korur Fincanci, President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV), recently said,
"Curfews are a form of torture which we define as the exposure of people to heavy physical and psychological violence due to discriminatory reasons. These are not limited to curfews. The snipers shoot at water reservoirs. They cut off electricity. The shoot at people directly. It reminds me of the Bosnian genocide, the mass graves where I worked, and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. People did not speak up against those mass murders, too. Later, in the face of those massacres, the state authorities were found guilty of staying silent, of looking the other way.
"Before there is another affront to humanity in Kurdistan, we are making a call to Turkey and the international community. Everyone needs to speak up immediately, in the loudest way. Please struggle against this violence; it is getting so late."
Uzay Bulut, born and raised a Muslim, is a Turkish journalist based in Ankara.