More Blood on Ankara’s Hands as Kurdish Civilian Death Toll Mounts

More than 100 civilians have been killed and many more injured in Kurdish areas in Turkey’s southeast since July, Human Rights Watch said, warning that civilian casualties are likely to rise in the coming days.

The region has been the scene of clashes between Turkish security forces and fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) following the collapse of a ceasefire between the two groups in July.

A report by the Human Rights Watch on Tuesday urged Turkish authorities to scale back security operations in the southeast.

“The Turkish government should rein in its security forces, immediately stop abusive and disproportionate use of force, and investigate the deaths and injuries caused by its operations,” HRW senior Turkey researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb said.

The group documented 15 civilian deaths during several 24-hour curfews in September and November, noting that these were only a “sample” and called for a full investigation. HRW cited a local rights group who put the civilian death toll since July at over 100.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged in November to continue operations until every PKK militant was defeated.

“To ignore or cover up what’s happening to the region’s Kurdish population would only confirm the widely held belief in the southeast that when it comes to police and military operations against Kurdish armed groups, there are no limits – there is no law,” Sinclair-Webb said.

The group called on Kurdish armed groups to stop digging trenches, planting explosives and putting up barricades.

HRW said that while Turkey has a right to defend itself from armed groups, the police and military have to ensure their operations respect the lives of non-combatants in the affected areas.

The Turkish state government and the PKK have fought an ongoing three-decade conflict that has killed more than 30,000 people.