Pro-Kurdish party announces human rights toll during coronavirus outbreak

According to a report drafted by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), 15 civilians, six of whom were under the age of 18 died, 84 were tortured and 93 were arrested, while 14 HDP municipalities were seized by the government and at least 13 cemeteries were destroyed.

The report, titled “Hostility against Kurds during the Outbreak” and announced on July 15 by HDP Co-Chairperson Ümit Dede and Ankara Deputy Filiz Kerestecioğlu, lists human rights violations that occurred during the coronavirus outbreak in Turkey.

According to the report, in the period between March 11 and June 30, when the risk of contracting the virus was at its highest, 15 civilians, six of whom were children, died. They were either attacked because of their Kurdish identity or hit by a bullet, or were killed when an object they had found exploded. Some of them lost their lives under suspicious circumstances.

The report further found that 384 people, including rights defenders, journalists, politicians and health workers, were detained, with 93 of them arrested.

Eighty-four people were either tortured or ill-treated, while 14 HDP municipalities were taken over by the government during the coronavirus pandemic. Eighty-four investigation files on HDP deputies were drafted and sent to parliament with the goal of removing their legislative immunity.

At least 13 cemeteries containing the graves of militants of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group waging an insurgency against Turkey, were destroyed.

Inmates had difficulty in accessing masks, hot water, food, and hygiene materials in prisons, the report found.

During the pandemic at least 70 women were killed by men in incidents of domestic violence.

“It became more difficult for Kurdish and migrant women to access health services during the outbreak,” the report stated.

The report also said the right to assembly and demonstration was completely shelved during the pandemic.

HDP Co-Chairperson Ümit Dede said, “The AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party] government preferred to fight dissidents and opponents instead of trying to curb the pandemic during the first three-and-a-half-months of the epidemic.”

“Taking the outbreak as an opportunity to increase its clout over society, the AKP government deepened polarization and discrimination. It used the outbreak as a pretext for prohibitions, violations of rights and arbitrary practices,” he added.

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