ANKARA (Reuters) - Thousands of people are still unable to return to their homes in a district of mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey one year after authorities imposed a round-the-clock curfew in an attempt to crush Kurdish militants, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
Of an estimated 500,000 people driven from their homes by Turkish security operations over the past year, the residents of Sur, a UNESCO world heritage site in the city of Diyarbakir, have been particularly hard hit, Amnesty said in a report.
“A year after a round-the-clock curfew was imposed in Sur, thousands of people remain displaced from their homes, struggling to make ends meet and facing an uncertain future in an increasingly repressive atmosphere,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty’s Europe Director.
“Whilst the crackdown on civil society in southeastern Turkey has been widely reported, there has been little coverage of the forced displacement which has devastated the lives of ordinary people under the pretext of security,” Dalhuisen added.
Asked about the Amnesty report, a senior government official told Reuters that reconstruction of Sur and allowing people to return to their homes remained a government priority.
“We are working on a project to solve this problem, and Sur lies at the heart of this project. We have planned some serious spending for Sur and other areas,” the official said.
The curfew, imposed several times from last December, has now been lifted in some parts of Sur, which is famed for its Roman-era walls.
But Amnesty described financial compensation paid by the Turkish government to affected households as “grossly inadequate” and said failure to provide rent assistance to already impoverished families had increased their desperation.
“The government must act urgently to lift the curfew, ensure affected communities are fully compensated and either helped to return to what remains of their homes or, at the very least, to their neighborhoods,” it said.
Violence has escalated in southeast Turkey since a ceasefire between the security forces and militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) collapsed in July 2015.
More than 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, have died since the PKK first took up arms in 1984. The PKK is classed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.
Writing by Ece Toksabay and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Gareth Jones