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Residents forced to leave historic Turkish district hit by violence

Turkish authorities have promised to restore the location, a UNESCO world heritage site
People gather near the site of an explosion that hit the police headquarters the day before in the Kurdish majority city of Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey (AFP)

Residents of Turkey's historic Sur district in the Kurdish-majority 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.

The Kurdish separatists have fought against the Turkish state since 1984 in a bloody conflict which has left over 40,000 people dead.

Two more neighbourhoods 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) 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?"