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Turkish-Kurdish civilians 'trapped and dying in besieged Cizre'

Ambulances unable to reach area of town under curfew for 46 days, where at least six people have died while trapped in basement of house
A photo released from the basement in Cizre (ANF)

At least six people are reported to have died and several others are wounded and trapped in the basement of a house in the besieged town of Cizre in southeast Turkey.

Local media agencies also reported that one woman, Sultan Irmak, died on Saturday morning:

About 28 people are thought to have been trapped in the house in the Cudi area of the town since 23 January.

According to the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP), six have now died and ambulances have been prevented from reaching the injured despite being stationed only a few hundred metres from their location.

Three HDP members have been on hunger strike since Wednesday in protest at the failure to get aid to the wounded in the basement.

"If there had been a sincere effort [to get them out] we would not be talking about six dead people today," HDP deputy İdris Baluken told a news conference in Ankara with two colleagues, all on hunger strike since Wednesday.

"We are talking about the problems of our citizens who for seven days cannot find food, water or drugs, who have died due to blood loss because of the lack of intervention."

A photo released from the basement by one of those trapped

Cizre has been under curfew for 49 days since Kurdish militants mainly affiliated to the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H) took up positions in the town demanding autonomy for the region.

About 100,000 of Cizre's 120,000 residents are thought to have fled since the curfew was declared, according to Zaman.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu placed the blame squarely on Kurdish militants on Thursday, claiming that they had fired on ambulances attempting to reach the wounded.

“We fight against terror and we would take all kinds of measures to rush any wounded person to hospital, no matter whether [he or she] is a terrorist,” Davutoglu said. “But if ambulances wish to reach there, then terror elements there should immediately get out. Sincere calls should be made to them to surrender,” he said.

According to Today's Zaman, an incident broke out on Tuesday when HDP deputy Meral Danis Bestas attempted to confront Davutoglu about the injured in a corridor in the Turkish parliament.

After being pushed away by bodyguards, Bestas shouted: "Mr Prime Minister, people are dying on a daily basis. You have to meet us if you are the prime minister. Who is ruling this country?"

"First close the trenches," replied Davutoglu, referring to trenches dug by the YDG-H.

On Friday, Turkey’s Constitutional Court rejected an application brought by activists to take measures to stop violations of human rights in Cizre and lift the curfew on the town.

The court cited “ambiguity over whether the people in Cizre are injured or not, whether they are in critical condition, why they were injured, whether they are armed or not and where they actually are".

An injured man in the basement shows a victory sign

Davutoglu on Thursday also called on HDP politicians to tell the leadership of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the their base in the Qandil mountains in northern Iraq to end their operations.

“I’m making a call to politicians who came to the Interior Ministry yesterday and have been waiting there: You have come to our Interior Ministry, okay, and our minister has hosted you. You have made all kinds of statements but for once, achieve to turn to Qandil and say ‘Enough is enough,'” he said.

Though the YDG-H are ideologically affiliated to the PKK, there is not thought to be a direct chain of command from Qandil to the groups fighting in Cizre and other towns in the southeast.

Hundreds of members of the Turkish security services have been killed by attacks since the collapse of a two-year ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish state in July.

At least 160 civilians are also thought to have died during fighting in Turkey’s southeast.