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Kurdish families begin 'death fast' over children's bodies left in streets

Violence and curfews have led to some bodies lying in the street of Diyarbakir for almost two months
Rozerin Cukur, whose body has been lying on the streets of Diyarbakir for almost two months (Sertac Kayar)

A group of Kurdish families are going on a “death fast” in protest at the inability to retrieve the bodies of their children from the streets of Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey months after they were killed.

Numerous families in the city of Diyarbakir have taken part in a 37-day vigil since their children were killed - either by Turkish state forces or crossfire from Kurdish militants - in the city’s historic Sur district, complaining of their inability to retrieve their bodies.

Mustafa Chukur, whose 17-year-old daughter Rozerin has been lying dead on the streets of Sur for almost two months, said that he and his relatives would fast to death if the siege on Sur was not lifted and the bodies retrieved within a week.

The Diyarbakir governorate press office previously told MEE that it could not verify the status of the bodies while the violence was ongoing.

"Everything about the curfew area is just a claim, we cannot enter and we cannot check if the bodies are on the streets or not," it said.

"We can say nothing before the terrorists are cleaned from the area. After cleaning, we can give answers."

The Chukur family had previously been driven out of their village in southeastern Turkey in the 90s following its destruction by the Turkish military.

According to the pro-Kurdish Firat News Agency, Chukur said that everyone who stayed silent was also “responsible” for the deaths and called on Diyarbakir’s residents to rise up and prevent a “second massacre” in the city.

Sur has now been under curfew for 88 days after armed Kurdish activists primarily from the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H) began digging trenches and erecting barricades in the city.

According to a report by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) over 80 percent of buildings in Sur are totally destroyed and several buildings on UNESCO's World Heritage list have been seriously damaged.

The report said that clashes had distanced the residents of Diyarbakir from state institutions and that there was anger with both the military and the PKK.

Turkish security forces on Tuesday ordered residents to leave Sur and warned them not to use their children as human shields.

Making an announcement from armoured cars, Turkish police told residents that they would be held legally responsible if their children were harmed, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.

"We don't want children to get harmed. We are worried about them. If the children get harmed, you will be held responsible legally. Do not use children as human shields," they said. The security forces also called on "PKK terrorists" to surrender.

Security sources claimed that 24 civilians had so far been evacuated since a "safe corridor" out of Sur had been opened at the weekend.

On Tuesday, the co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HDP), Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas, released a statement condemning the curfew in Sur, which they described as the "cultural, social, economic and historical heart of Diyarbakir".

"All that is happening in Sur in the moment, and all that will happen in the coming days, is a matter of humanity and human dignity," said the statement.

"We call upon all national and international democratic institutions and platforms to express a solid reaction against the current political and humanitarian crisis in Sur and act in solidarity with the people of Sur."

Violence exploded again in Turkey in July 2015, following the collapse of a two-year ceasefire between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Since the launch of the PKK insurgency in 1984, over 40,000 people have been killed in fighting.

The PKK leadership now calls for autonomy for Kurds rather than an independent Kurdish state, though groups like the YDG-H - who are thought to be only indirectly linked to the PKK - have different long-term strategies.

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