Diyarbakir-Amed, Turkey’s Kurdish region,— Residents of Turkey’s historic Sur district in the Kurdish province of Diyarbakir were forced to evacuate their homes by Monday as the violence-wracked region undergoes restoration.
The district in southeastern province has been hit by clashes between the Turkish army and outlawed Kurdish militants for over two years.
Turkish authorities say they will restore the district, a UNESCO world heritage site with its ancient fortified walls, historic mosques, churches and synagogues.
Clashes between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters and the Turkish armed forces erupted after the collapse of a two-and-a-half-year ceasefire in 2015.
Two more neighborhoods in Sur were being emptied on Monday but families told AFP they did not want to leave the homes they have lived in for many years.
Those who own their own homes have been given money but finding property elsewhere is difficult, and for those who are not homeowners, the situation is worse.
Sahin Darkan, who had lived in Sur for 11 years, told AFP that he did not have to pay rent while he lived in the district.
“Now we need to evacuate. We will have to pay a rent. They (authorities) placed pressure on us to leave. I don’t know what will happen to us,” Darkan, who works odd jobs, said.
“Actually we do not want to leave but we must leave,” Baris Umut, a member of one of Sur’s oldest families, said.
“Where should we go, leaving this beautiful place, this paradise?”
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said last September 1.9 billion lira ($535.5 million, 491 million Euros) would be invested in the district with billions more poured into the southeast region for development after the violence.
But others including Zeliha Ceylan said they could not leave without getting enough money to buy a house elsewhere.
“They gave me a small amount. I have nobody. I cannot buy a house or pay rent. The state is telling me to move, but where will I go?”
Since July 2015, Turkey initiated a controversial military campaign against the PKK in the country’s southeastern Kurdish region after Ankara ended a two-year ceasefire agreement. Since the beginning of the campaign, Ankara has imposed several round-the-clock curfews, preventing Kurdish civilians from fleeing regions where the military operations are being conducted.
Activists have accused the Turkish security forces of causing huge destruction to urban centres and killing Kurdish civilians.
Observers said the crackdown has taken a heavy toll on the Kurdish civilian population and accuse Turkey of using collective punishment against the minority. Activists have accused the security forces of causing huge destruction to urban centres and killing Kurdish civilians.
In March 2017, the Turkish security forces accused by UN of committing serious abuses during operations against Kurdish militants in the nation’s southeast.
In April 2017, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the government to end unfair trials and the crackdown on Kurdish political opposition.
The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 79-million population. Nearly 40,000 people have been killed in the resulting conflict since then.
A large Kurdish community in Turkey and worldwide openly sympathise with PKK rebels and Abdullah Ocalan, who founded the PKK group in 1974, and has a high symbolic value for most Kurds in Turkey and worldwide according to observers.
Turkey: Residents of Sur Evicted Forcibly
Mahmut Bozarslan, VOAnews
Diyarbakir- Before afternoon prayers, the mosque`s speakers barked the dreaded order that residents of Sur`s Ali Pasa neighborhood had hoped would not come so soon.
“The neighborhood must be vacated at the latest on Monday evening, May 1.
After clashes between Turkish security forces and the PKK`s youth branch devastated Sur district in 2015 and 2016, the government decided an urban transformation project was best for many neighborhoods.
The decision was implemented right away in areas where the clashes were intense, with nearly 2,000 buildings demolished in six neighborhoods. Because the houses already were vacated, people were not allowed to go back, and new houses were built as the damaged ones were razed.
Homes are condemned
The Ali Pasa and Lalabey neighborhoods, which are home to 7,000 people and were the least affected, got the word Thursday that they were next. Residents were forced to vacate temporarily last year, but this time they were asked to leave for good. Many of the houses were condemned. The government paid homeowners the value of their homes. Tenants got nothing.
“We don`t want to leave but we have to,” said Baris Umut, who was among those who waited until Monday to leave. “My uncle used to live across the street. Now it is an empty lot. In the morning while we are having breakfast, they came with machines and demolished the house.”
Added Seniha Yildiz: “It is as if we are marching to our death. We are used to here, we were happy with our life.”
Sur`s history dates back to the 7,500s BC., and it is one of the first places where humanity started settled life. Now its people are on the move.
Has happened before
For Yildiz Kardas, who lives with her three sons and their families in two adjacent houses, it`s not her first forced migration.
An order to vacate was given to her village in Mardin 26 years ago, and the family moved to Diyarbakir. Even though she and her family had to move to another district in Diyarbakir last year due to the clashes, they returned to their house once the operations were over.
“We cried till morning” the night after the latest vacate order came, she said. “I don`t know what I will do. We can only pay rent for a couple of months.”
Several residents bemoaned that the government compensation isn`t enough to buy another house, but that they had no other options but to comply with the government order.
“I don`t have that kind of money,” resident Veysi Cakar said. “My only income is salary from the government for my disability, and I can`t even make ends meet with that. I will leave, what else I can do? Am I going to fight with security forces?”
Resistance of a Woman in Sur: My home, My past, All I have
DİYARBAKIR – 130-year-old Şahi Tayurak, is one of the citizens living in the Alipaşa Neighborhood of Sur, where is decided to be demolished. “Sur is the most beautiful thing I remember, I cannot leave,” said Şahi, whose home is wanted to be torn down.
The curfew, which was declared in the Sur district of Diyarbakır on December 2, 2015, has still been imposed on four neighborhoods of the town. After the clashes in the town, the demolition was started in the Cemal Yılmaz, Savaş, Fatihpaşa and Hasırlı neighborhoods on March and the four neighborhoods were razed to the ground. On March 25, 2016, the Cabinet of Ministers declared “Urgent Expropriation” for of Sur. 82% of the places of Sur is expropriated and now the citizens living in four neighborhoods have been forced to leave their homes. A notice was sent to the citizens living in Alipaşa and Lalebey neighborhoods to “evacuate their homes”. The citizens, who faced the attacks, begin to resist for protecting their homes. For two days, an announcement has been made from the mosques in the town and the citizens are said “evacuate your home until May 1”. The demolition in the two neighborhoods is reported to be torn down on Tuesday.
‘I live in this home for 50 years’
The home of Şahi Tayurak, her family says she is 130-years-old, will be also tore down. Şahi, who has spent her life in Sur, has lived in this home for 50 years. The only thing that Şahi remembers is Sur. Şahi is one of the citizens resisting for their homes. Şahi’s family members, who have lived in their homes as four families, don’t want to give their home to TOKİ and they will take legal action.
One of the most precious things in the life Şahi, who is originally from Silvan- one district of Diyarbakır-, is Sur and her love of Sur. When you ask what Sur means for her, she says, “It is my home, my past, all I have.”
‘I won’t leave here’
Şahi said, “They want to demolish here four years ago but we didn’t allow them as women. Where can I and my children go, if they tear down our home? I have seen and lived many things but I haven’t seen any place more beautiful than Sur. Sur is all I have, I don’t leave it. It used to be very beautiful in the past; there was peace in the streets. They want to demolish here. Hundreds of people will become homeless like me. They can tear our homes on us but I won’t leave my home again.”
‘Half of population of Diyarbakır was born here’
Emphasizing that she will never change Sur to anything, Şahi said, “I cannot hear very well and I cannot remember everything; but all I remember is Sur and my home. I won’t have anything if they take them from me. Hundreds people have lived in Alipaşa and everyone knows the history of here, half of population of Diyarbakır was born here. The people should speak out and do something, I hardly walk. I don’t want to go anywhere and I don’t want to leave Sur.”
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Violation Database cases:
Turkey-23,000 people displaced, 27,000 facing forced eviction, 1,100 buildings demolished in Diyarbakır
Turkey: Forced Eviction and Urban Transformation as a Tool of War