Turkey Amnesty urges country to allow displaced thousands to return home

The curfew began in December 2015 in 11 neighbourhoods of Sur, later affecting 15 neighbourhoods at its January peak

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Turkish riot police stand in front of the city hall in Diyarbakir on December 3, 2016, prior to the removal of the municipality logo from the facade of the building play

Turkish riot police stand in front of the city hall in Diyarbakir on December 3, 2016, prior to the removal of the municipality logo from the facade of the building

(AFP/File)
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Amnesty International on Tuesday called on Turkey to compensate and allow 24,000 people displaced under a curfew to return to their districts of the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir.

Turkish authorities imposed strict round-the-clock curfews in a number of urban centres in the southeast ravaged by the resumption in July 2015 of violence between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Turkish security forces.

The historic Sur district of Diyarbakir -- a UNESCO world heritage site with its ancient fortified walls, historic mosques, churches and synagogues -- is one of them.

The curfew began in December 2015 in 11 neighbourhoods of Sur, later affecting 15 neighbourhoods at its January peak. The measure is still in place in six neighbourhoods as the authorities seek to eradicate any PKK presence.

All of the nearly 24,000 residents of the six neighbourhoods of Sur have left their homes, Amnesty said in its report. In total, half a million people have been displaced by fighting across the southeast, it said.

The displaced residents' right to return to their homes appears to be "in grave danger" due to curfews, damaged infrastructure and demolitions, Amnesty said.

It urged the authorities to "lift the curfew without delay" and take steps to ensure the displaced people's return to their homes.

"People were forced to leave their homes with a short notice," Andrew Gardner, Amnesty's Turkey Researcher, told AFP in an interview in Istanbul.

"They need to be compensated for the loss of their possessions but also for the loss of their livelihoods because when they lost their homes, they also lost their jobs in a great number of cases," he added.

'Detailed, credible plan'

Gardner said some families had received compensation from the authorities for loss of their possessions but that's been "clearly inadequate".

"Going forward, there isn't any concrete, detailed or credible plan for how these families are going to be able to return to their homes," he added.

An AFP reporter in Diyarbakir said formerly narrow alleyways surrounded by buildings have been flattened and it is still possible to run across explosives.

But the Turkish authorities say that the damage was the fault of the PKK and insisted everything is being done to make the new Sur habitable for residents and hospitable to tourists.

With the easing of the curfew in several parts of Sur, authorities have begun to restore historic buildings including Kursunlu Mosque and two Armenian churches severely damaged by the clashes.

Visiting Diyarbakir in September, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 1.9 billion lira ($645 million/577 million euros) would be invested in Sur.

And his predecessor Ahmet Davutoglu even vowed to turn Sur into a "new Toledo" in reference to the famed Spanish city.

But Amnesty said that the issue was being further complicated by the removal of elected mayors in the southeast and the closure of NGOs in a crackdown after the failed July 15 coup attempt.

Gardner said having a state of emergency does not justify "the measures that we've seen" and urged authorities to draw a line between unlawful violence, threats to the state and peaceful dissenting opinions.

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