Turkey : Police and militias killing of Kurdish protesters must be investigated and prosecuted

Press release
en fa

Paris, October 9, 2014 – FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) strongly condemns the brutal attacks and the use of live ammunitions by the police and extremist groups against anti-IS Kurdish protesters across Turkey, and fears that Turkish officials’ declarations and use of force endanger fragile peace negotiations.

At least 25 persons have been killed since 7 October in Turkey during protests held across Turkey against the Islamic State (IS) offensive in Kobane (Syria) and the inaction of the Turkish military. Riot police used tears gas and water canons to quell the demonstrations across the country, and has been reported to have attacked protesters in firing live ammunitions, killing demonstrators in Mus and Mardin.

Police, AKP activists and islamist groups/ militias have been accused of slaughtering 10 Kurds protesting against IS offensive in Syria and wounding dozens others in the towns of Diyarbakir, Van, Batman, Varto, Kiziltepe, Dargeçit and Kurtalan. Relatives of the AKP-affiliated mayor of Kurtalan allegedly opened fire and killed two protesters. Members of Hezbollah groups, a Turkish-based Sunni islamist group, also attacked and killed demonstrators in five different districts of Baglar. Hüda-Par, another Turkish-based Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political party, opened fire from their provincial office and killed and wounded several persons demonstrating against IS in Batman. Reports also allege that Hezbollah activists were also attacked and killed in the clashes with Kurdish demonstrators.

Curfews were installed over night in several cities of Turkey. In Diyarbakır it was extended beyond night time. In such context, human rights organisations, such as the FIDH Member organisation Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği - İHD) cannot carry out their activities in the SouthEastern region.

Concerns also arise following the statement made by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying that « For us, the PKK and [IS] are the same […] it is wrong to consider them as different from each other », which was followed by that of the Interior Minister Efkan Ala, who said that the violence of protesters will be met with more violence and that they should withdraw from the streets, further accusing the demonstrators of “betray[ing] their own country”

Such declarations and the profound abuse of police force in quelling demonstrations are dangerous, said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. Authorities have a duty and a responsibility to further the fragile peace negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Parti Karkerani Kurdistan-PKK). The blatant disregard, and killing of Kurdish protesters could be seen as defying these historical evolutions. It is now fundamental that authorities demonstrate that every citizen of Turkey receive the same recognition, be protected from police violence, and benefit from prosecution against all human rights violations.

FIDH strongly condemns the excessive use of force by the Turkish police and calls on the authorities to ensure the right to peaceful protest, and to conform with their obligations under Turkish and international law on the use of force by armed officials [1]. FIDH particularly condemns the use of live ammunitions, a step further in the violation of the right to freedom of manifestation, in spite of numerous reports deploring the abuse of force by law enforcement authorities. [2]

The deaths and injuries must be investigated and perpetrators brought to justice, regardless of their religious, ethnic or political affiliation. Turkey has the obligation to make sure that no extremist Islamic group, such as Hezbollah and Hüda-Par, or any AKP leaders commit such atrocities on its soil and that those responsible be tried and prosecuted.

In addition, authorities also have an obligation to ensure that rights groups are able to carry out their documentation activities throughout the country.

The demonstrations broke out as Turkish Kurds grew unhappy at the lack of reaction by Erdogan’s government to the siege of Kobane, Syria’s third largest Kurd city, by the IS. The town has been defended for months by a few thousands Kurdish militants against IS’s heavy artillery and was about to be conquered on Tuesday evening. Turkish military, NATO’s second largest terrestrial force, has been stationed for weeks along Syria’s border for weeks. In addition, Turkish authorities prevented Turkish Kurd militants from crossing the border to provide support to the Syrian Kurdish communities.

Read more