DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — Turkish authorities have evicted tens of thousands of people in security operations in a predominantly Kurdish district of southeastern Turkey, a human rights group said Tuesday.
Amnesty International said in a report that Turkish authorities, by expropriating and demolishing homes, have prevented the return of those displaced with a policy that may amount to collective punishment.
Amnesty’s Europe director, John Dalhuisen, said that “a year after a round-the-clock curfew was imposed in Sur, thousands of people remain displaced from their homes, struggling to make ends meet and facing an uncertain future in an increasingly repressive atmosphere.”
Turkish officials did not comment on the report. They have said that the vast security operations and 24-hour curfews in Sur and other predominantly Kurdish areas were necessary for security — to root out fighters linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider a terrorist organization.
PKK-linked and -inspired militants had dug trenches, raised barricades and booby-trapped areas in neighborhoods where they have sought to claim autonomy, including in Sur, a historic district in the city of Diyarbakir, widely seen by Turkey’s Kurds as their regional capital.
A cease-fire between the government and the PKK collapsed in July 2015. As the conflict escalated, large sections of Sur were placed under curfew in December 2015.
That restriction remains in place in six neighborhoods, though clashes ended in March.
In the report, released to coincide with the anniversary of Sur’s curfew, Amnesty slammed authorities for “devastating the lives of ordinary people under the pretext of security.”
The rights group estimates that more than 500,000 people have been displaced in eastern and southeastern Turkey as a result of curfews and crackdowns.
Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey researcher, said the unnecessary extension of the curfew in Sur and the authorities’ failure to facilitate the return of residents suggest a “premeditated plan” to achieve security “through changing the structure and infrastructure of these areas.”
Residents displaced from Sur and other areas have struggled to find alternative housing, livelihoods and education for their children, according to the report, which drew on the testimony of 26 displaced families. Families have received insufficient compensation and aid from the government.
The hardship has been compounded by a nationwide state of emergency imposed after the failed July 15 coup, which has seen the closure of Kurdish media outlets and detention of Kurdish politicians and lawyers.