A report from the United Nations’ rights office details evidence of “massive destruction, killings and numerous other serious human rights violations committed between July 2015 and December 2016 in southeast Turkey”.
According to statistics given by Ankara to the UN, the unrest in the southeast has claimed some 2,000 lives over the last year and half.
That figure includes about 800 soldiers and 1,200 “local residents”, the report said, but there was no available breakdown for the number of Kurdish militants and civilians killed.
The outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has waged an insurgency against Turkey since 1984, though the violence was contained during the truce agreed in 2013.
But fighting resumed when the ceasefire fell apart in the summer of 2015.
Satellite images of areas affected by the latest unrest “indicate an enormous scale of destruction of the housing stock by heavy weaponry”, the report said, with some neighbourhoods “razed to the ground”.
– Three pieces of flesh –
In Cizre, a mainly Kurdish town on the Syrian border, residents described the devastation of neighbourhoods as “apocalyptic”, the UN said.
In early 2016, nearly 200 of the town’s residents, including children, “were trapped for weeks in basements without water, food, medical attention and power before being killed by fire, induced by shelling,” it said.
One man told the UN that his family was summoned by authorities in Cizre to collect his sister’s remains but were given just “three small charred pieces of flesh”.
The public prosecutor in Cizre said the woman had been identified through a DNA match.
Zeid also denounced Ankara for challenging the “veracity” of the report’s findings while refusing to give his investigators access.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict between the military and the PKK, which seeks greater rights and autonomy for Turkey’s Kurdish minority.
The insurgent group is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.
– Coup’s aftermath –
Zeid said he understood that Turkey faced difficult challenges in the aftermath of the attempted coup but warned that intensifying a crackdown on basic rights would only fuel further instability.