Clashes and attacks in Turkey’s south east adds to spiral of violence

Originally produced for Armed Politics in June 2016

This morning a car bomb hit an armoured police transport vehicle in Dicle in Turkey’s south eastern Diyarbakir province, killing one policeman and injuring seven people, six of whom were civilians. The strength of the blast was so great that it damaged surrounding roads and buildings. Security forces subsequently began a sweeping operation in the area to seek out militants.

The perpetrators of the target are likely members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, fighting the Turkish government for greater autonomy in Turkey’s largely Kurdish south east. Dicle, like much of the south east, has a strong Kurdish population, and has been the site of many clashes and attacks over the last year.

This attack follows clashes yesterday in Hakkari province, another south eastern Kurdish area, in which security forces reportedly killed two militants. According to the province’s governor, the two militants refused to stop when ordered and a firefight ensued. Security forces claim to have found two AK-47 rifles and hand grenades on the militants.

Violence in Turkey’s south east has now become a near-daily occurrence since fighting resumed in earnest last summer. Crisis Group International estimates that 350,000 civilians have been displaced and 250 killed in this most recent round of fighting. The violence has not only been confined to the south east, with Kurdish independence groups launching bloody attacks in Istanbul and the capital, Ankara.

Crisis Group International, along with a range of rights groups, as well as the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, have voiced concerns over the civilian cost of the recent fighting. The Turkish military has reportedly use heavy weaponry in civilian areas. The Turkish military has been accused of massacring 60 civilians, who were found dead in the basement of a building in the south eastern town of Cizre, which has borne the brunt of some of the worst of the fighting. The Turkish military is quick to claim any killed in clashes as militants.

Turkey’s Kurdish conflict is taking place against a background of fighting in Syria, in which various groups within Turkey are involved. Yesterday two shells hit the Turkish side of the border in Hatay province, a reminder that this conflict is not going away. And it is not just Turkey’s Kurds who are drawn into this fighting; Turkish nationalist groups are fighting in support of Turkmen militias clashing with government forces in the north of Syria. This level of sustained violence, drawing in and affecting so many different areas of Turkish society, will have consequences for years to come.

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