Turkey starts to demolish buildings in Diyarbakır’s historical Sur district amid tension

Demolition of the building harmed during the clashes between Turkish security forces and the militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has been started by Turkish government in some neighborhoods of historical Sur district of Turkey’s southeastern province Diyarbakır amid tension on Tuesday.

It was reported that Turkish police has attacked the local people standing in the way of diggers that entered two neighborhoods of the historical Sur district for a total demolition under the cover of “urban transformation.”

According to pro-Kurdish news sources, diggers have started demolition in Kilise Square on an order from the Environment and Urbanization Minsitry for Alipaşa and Lalebey neighborhoods in Diyarbakır’s central Sur district. Official vehicles of Diyarbakır Water and Sewerage Administration (DİSKİ) have also entered the neighborhood to cut off water amid a siege by police forces. People have tried to obstruct the diggers from demolishing their homes are attacked by the police, to which they respond with stones.

Sur’s local residents were sent notices on Monday to evacuate their homes in Alipaşa and Lalebey neighborhoods where demolition was started on Tuesday morning. On Monday, water was cut off in the neighborhoods and diggers attempted to enter the neighborhood, but were pushed back by the people’s resistance.

The local branches of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the Democratic Regions’ Party (DBP), the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP), HDP deputies and Chamber of Architects held a demonstration in Sur’s Alipaşa neighborhood against the demolition decision. Locals from Lalebey and Alipaşa neighborhoods also joined the demonstrations. Police blockaded the protestors and tried to prevent a statement against the demolition.

As the local people protested the police, DBP provincial co-chair Zeki Baran stated that the people of Sur face losing their past and homes. Baran said Sur was not an ordinary place and cannot be sacrificed for the state.

Baran stated that, “They want to demolish Sur by use of force. State forces threaten the residents on daily basis, saying that ‘either you leave or we cut off power and water, and demolish your houses on you’. The residents of Sur are people who were born and raised here. Everyone should know that the houses of Kurds will not be a home but only a grave to anyone else. This is what has happened so far, and so shall it be.”

Mevlüde Kaya, a resident of Alipaşa neighborhood, whose house is among those to be demolished, underlined that they will not leave Sur at any cost. Another resident Mevlüt Dağtaş said that he is 68 years old and has lived in Sur all his life. “Everyone should know that we will not give Sur even if we need to die for it. Those with tanks and artilleries might push us out by force but we will not leave home. They threaten us with cutting off power and water. Let them do so. We will still not leave here, even if we are left without light and water. We were born here and we want to die here. We don’t need anyone’s money,” he told pro-Kurdish media.

Assessing the situation in Sur district, Şerefhan Aydın, co-Chair of the Chamber of Architects in Diyarbakır has said that  “There is a serious invasion of rent in Sur over the past two years. They want to demolish Sur and turn it into an area of rent. They are enforcing the people to exile. The people leaving here are being through severe traumas. I call upon everyone to be the voice of the people.”

Reminding that UNESCO inscribed Sur on World Heritage List in 2015 Aydın stated that “However, UN raises no objection to the demolition decision in Sur. The structures in Sur are what create the soul of Sur. If the structures, life, history and culture do not exist, nothing else will have importance. We call on everyone to raise their voice against these unrestrained attacks.”

Meanwhile, starting from Sunday, a curfew was declared in Kurşunlu, Taşağıl, Kırkpınar and Kayıköy villages in Dicle district of Diyarbakır over planned operations. Diyarbakır Governor Office has announced that the curfew was declared in order to ‘neutralize members of the Separatist Terrorist Organization operating in mountainous and forested lands of Dicle district and its cooperators as well as to destroy shelters, […] and storages and supplies used by these.”

The governor office has also stated that the curfew enter into effect on May 21 and will remain in effect until further notice in order to ensure security of the people living in the area and their property during the operation which would be carried out in the region.

Also on Tuesday, at least 18 people were detained as part of operations against the HDP’s İzmir branches. Detainees included several executives and members of the HDP offices in İzmir’s Menemen, Bayındır and Torbalı districts.

Turkish government has stepped up pressure against Kurds in the recent past jailing its politicians as well as members while it has seized administrations of many Kurdish party-led municipalities in eastern Turkey.

May 23, 2017

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