CLASHES IN KURDISTAN – Aerial Bombing Forcing Mass Exodus from Şemdinli, Mayor Warns

BIANET 2.8.2012 – Around 500 locals have abandoned their homes in the district of Şemdinli in the southeastern province of Hakkari due to the Turkish military’s ongoing aerial strikes in the area, according to District Mayor Sedat Töre.

As clashes between security forces and militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) enter their ninth day in the southeast, some 500 people have abandoned their homes in Hakkari’s Şemdinli district due to the Turkish military’s ongoing aerial bombardment in the region, Şemdinli District Mayor Sedat Töre told bianet.

Families from the Çem hamlet in Bağlar and the three Yiğitler hamlets in Günyazı village who were forced to evacuate their homes have taken refuge in nearby villages or with their relatives in other districts in vicinity, Töre said. District Mayor Töre also added they had already accomodated some 30 families who arrived in the district center, while they were also bracing for more potential incomers. “As intense fighting [in the area] enters its ninth day, it is distressing that [the media] has almost concealed the situation from the public,” he said.

Authorities deny families the funerals of their loved ones

The clashes have been underway since July 23 and are particularly focused in a 20 square kilometer area toward the south of Şemdinli, District Mayor Töre explained. “Tanks have been transferred to the fighting zone. A bombardment took place one kilometer away from the district center; at the moment we can see the plumes of smoke. There is also smoke rising from Mt. Goman,” he said.

The Turkish Armed Forces announced they were bombing the region with helicopter gunships and that 22 PKK militants had lost their lives in the clashes. Two specialist sergeants, Enis Yücel and Yasin Bayraktar, have also lost their lives in the fight.

Authorities have also restricted access to the area, and two families were thus unable to retrieve the funerals of their loves ones in the PKK, District Mayor Töre said.”They applied to the prosecutor’s office to retrieve the funerals, but the prosecutor’s office refused and said they would not be able to take the funerals due to reasons of security. Their second appeal has also been denied, and the funerals are still in the fighting zone… Two people from the civilian population have also been injured and received outpatient treatment,” he added.

“Hear the voice of Şemdinli!”

District Mayor Töre also reproached the media for turning a blind eye to the ongoing crisis in the area:”We would like to draw the attention of free and democratic media establishments to the region. There is a conflict underway the like of which has [not been seen] for a long time; hundreds have been displaced. [Officials] should take steps to redress this grievance with all haste. For that reason, we want the press to turn its attention to here,” he said.