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Turks warn besieged Sur residents: 'Do not use children as human shields'

Residents of Diyarbakir neighbourhood told they will be held legally responsible if their children are harmed as army orders them to leave
Turkish soldiers walk under a Turkish flag during a curfew in Diyarbakir's historic Sur district (AFP)

Turkish security forces on Tuesday ordered residents to leave a besieged central district of the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir and told 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 told Anadolu that 24 civilians had so far been evacuated since a "safe corridor" out of Sur had been opened at the weekend.

Sur had been the subject of a three-month military crackdown which authorities say is targeted at rooting out Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants.

The Turkish army says that at least 242 militants have been killed so far, but activists say that at least 14 civilians including four teenagers have also been killed.

Last month Middle East Eye reported on how the families of some of those killed, including a 17-year-old Kurdish student, had been unable to retrieve the bodies of their relatives from the streets. 

Several families who lost children in the shooting have staged hunger strikes, demanding the return of their bodies.

One hunger striker, Mehmet Oran, told MEE the body of his son, Isa Oran, lay on the streets for 28 days before he could retrieve it.

"They [local authorities] told us that we have to sign an agreement and declare that we are responsible for our own actions if we go the streets that are under curfew and have to take a vehicle to take bodies," he told MEE.

"They told us after that we can take the bodies of our children. They told us that there are snipers and if the snipers kill us, they are not responsible."

Turkish security forces have enforced curfews and clashed with alleged militants in several towns and cities in the Kurdish-majority southeast in recent months following the collapse of a ceasefire deal with the PKK, which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state. 

On Saturday, police used tear gas and water cannons to quell protests in Diyarbakir calling for an end to the three-month curfew imposed on Sur.

Protesters also demanded a 24-hour break in the curfew to allow those still trapped in Sur to be rescued.

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