A Kurdish village in Turkey has been under siege for more than 10 days now. The community of nearly a thousand people was isolated from the world because of the curfew which has began on February 11. As images emerge on social media channels, concerns over possible human rights violations are growing.
Xerabê Bava (meaning “the ruin of the fathers”; in Turkish also Koruköy or Kuruköy) is a village close to Nusaybin, the district of Mardin that was severely damaged last year by PKK-government fights.
After being under a short curfew last December, Xerabê Bava was hit with a new curfew on February 11, which is still intact. Around 50 people are reported to have been taken into custody days ago, however no lawyers have been allowed to see them yet. Moreover, few instances of contact with the residents, either by cell phone, or by those who could leave the settlement, indicate that severe human rights violations in the village might have taken place—although it is not possible to independently verify these claims. The eye-witnesses’ accounts include torture, extrajudicial killings, burning of houses, sexual abuse, forced labour, mass killing of animals, and prolonged interrogations of children.
The office of the governor of Mardin announced the curfew with a statement late on February 11, saying the purpose was to conduct an operation against the PKK. Government forces assume that they are hiding in the village. According to another statement, released ten days later by the governorate four high ranking PKK guerrillas were killed and large weapon caches were captured. The statement also refuted the criticism, asserting that “the operations are run in line with the rule of law... (and with) priority given to the security of life and property of the citizens...”
Opposition parties and activists are challenging the government’s accord. The Human Rights Association said that a gunfire was first heard in the village on the sixth day of the operations. A delegation from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) barred from entering village. CHP lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu tweeted a photo of a wounded citizen, alleging that he had been tortured.
Mainstream media outlets, many of which are directly or indirectly controlled by the ruling party, have been silent on the matter. Since military operations began in the south-east of the country, access for independent observers and international journalists has become more difficult, resulting in a situation, where many have to rely on second hand sources, often through social media channels.