Turkey again lifts curfew in Kurdish city of Cizre
DIYARBAKIR (Turkey) - Turkish authorities on Monday lifted a curfew in the mainly Kurdish southeastern city of Cizre after reimposing it for 12 hours following a deadly nine-day military lockdown, the regional governor's office said.
The curfew, enforced as the army battles Kurdish militants, had first been put in place on the evening of September 4 and then lifted last Friday amid concerns of a humanitarian crisis in the battered city.
Local residents on Saturday ventured outside for the first time, stocking up on supplies and burying victims who they say were killed by the army during the curfew.
However the regional authorities in Sirnak province reimposed the curfew from 1600 GMT on Sunday evening for another operation to arrest Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants.
"The curfew in Cizre has been lifted as of 7:00 am (0400 GMT)," the Sirnak governor's office said in a statement early Monday.
The Turkish government said that up to 32 Kurdish rebels were killed during the previous nine-day curfew in an "anti-terror" operation against suspected members of the PKK.
But the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) has said 23 civilians were killed during the operation, which triggered food shortages.
HDP MP Muslum Dogan, Turkish development minister in the current caretaker government, said Monday that the victims ranged from a 35-day-old baby to an 85-year-old woman. Hundreds were also wounded, he added.
"Can a 35-day old child be a terrorist?" he said in Ankara, quoted by Turkish media. "Can this be someone who carries arms?"
"We need to get this country out of this chaos," he added.
Thousands attended funerals on Sunday morning in Cizre for 16 of those killed during the curfew.
The operation in Cizre, a city of 120,000 on the border with Syria and close to Iraq, came as part of the government's drive to cripple the PKK in southeast Turkey and northern Iraq, a campaign that started in late July and shows no sign of abating.
Meanwhile, the authorities also lifted curfews imposed early Sunday in several areas of the central Sur district of Diyarbakir, the biggest city in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast, as well as in Silvan in its wider region.
Armed police were earlier seen manning barricades preventing passage to the old city of Diyarbakir at entry points along its famous dark-hued walls, a photographer reported.
But the curfew was removed from 1400 GMT, the local authorities said.
The unrest comes at a febrile time in Turkey ahead of snap November 1 elections, where the ruling party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will seek to eat into the HDP's votes to win back an overall majority.
HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas said the ruling party could "lay waste" to the country in pursuit of its dream of securing 400 seats out of the 550 available in parliament.
But he urged young Kurds not to resort to violence. "There is no need for weapons," Turkish media quoted him as saying.