President Erdoğan and AKP government’s politics of war in Kurdish provinces of the country since July 2015 have reached alarming proportions. Unlawful round-the-clock curfews and military operations continue to harm the civilian population and ecology of the region. The heavy damage that last week’s forest fires and the so-called security measures inflicted on the people of Lice once again illustrates the destructive face of war.
The Devastating War in Lice
On June 16, 2016, nine regions in the Lice district of the Province of Diyarbakir were declared temporary military security zones on the grounds of ongoing military operations. Round-the-clock curfews are still effective in 38 villages in the district, where one-day curfews are imposed on several settlements before each military operation. The main arteries and village roads are blocked by security forces, who prevent entry or exits. There are reports that villagers are persecuted, threatened, and battered by security forces. Citizens living in the peripheral villages where clashes occur say that soldiers do not allow exits, and when they can exit helicopters harass them.
Alongside these forms of violence against the local people and blatant curtailment of freedoms on the grounds of security, forest fires constitute a major form of havoc that the war causes in Lice and other Kurdish provinces. During the military operation in Lice, approximately 50,000 acres burnt down as a result of the aerial bombings by F-16s or Skorsky helicopters. Forest fires have started and still go on in 150 points near the villages in Lice, Hani, Kocaköy, and Hazro districts. Fires destroyed a majority of wheat farms, which constitute a major source of income in the region. Attempts to reach citizens in these villages have failed. Meanwhile, special operations units have forcefully evacuated villages and found mobile stations to use these villages as military bases.
Forest fires that are deliberately started by security forces should be seen as one of the war strategies of the state. Forests have been burnt down over the last thirty years of war as a part of the state’s security policies, ravaging the ecological balance and the habitat of living beings. After the termination of the peace negotiation process, there has been a sharp increase in the number of forest fires in the Kurdish provinces. In a forest fire that coincided with the recommencement of the war in July 2015, 255.510 hectares of forest area burnt down in Lice. Firefighters were prevented from accessing the area and the fire was put down only after it had spread to a large area.
It is clearly indicated in Geneva Conventions that life and life spaces need to be protected during wars. By starting, accelerating, and not intervening in the fires, the Turkish government and its security forces violate international legal norms. The reaction of international democratic to this destructive war in Turkey would be an invaluable effort in the immediate prevention of the heavy toll of these attacks on civilian and ecological life.
Vice Co-Chair of HDP Foreign Affairs
Deputy for Bingol
28 June 2016