Turkey has been accused of serious human rights abuses in its fight against Kurdish forces in the country’s southeast. After a ceasefire broke down between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in 2015, thousands of people – mostly Kurds – have been killed or jailed with hundreds of thousands displaced, according to a United Nations report.
According to the report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNHCR, around 2,000 people have been killed as part of Turkish security operations. The UNHCR detailed killings, forced disappearances, torture and crackdowns on freedom of expression and political participation.
Turkish security forces also prevented access to food, water and medical care, destroyed housing and restricted the free movement of people through curfews. The curfews, which would often last weeks, prevented the evacuation of displaced people who were trapped in the middle of fighting.
Between 350,000 to 500,000 mainly Kurdish people were estimated to have been internally displaced in Turkey’s southeast, with limited humanitarian assistance.
The report was also concerned about “the use of counter-terrorism legislation to remove from office democratically elected officials of Kurdish origin” along with crackdowns on independent journalists, and the subversion of Kurdish language media and associations.
The PKK, which has been pushing for an autonomous Kurdish region since 1984, is considered a terrorist organization by the Turkish government, which subsequently launched a large scale “anti-terrorist” operation against the group. The government claims that the PKK has carried out violent attacks on Turkish security forces as well as kidnappings and the deliberate roadblocking of areas.
In an attempt to drive back Kurdish forces around Turkey’s southern border with Syria, Turkish forces have been deployed around the Syrian city of Manbij. According to the Syrian Arab News agency on Friday, Turkish forces had shelled targets near the city.
Both Turkey and Kurdish forces in the area have been backed by the U.S., who along with Russia and the Syrian government have challenged Turkey's presence in the city, with the U.S. declaring that they will continue to hold the area around Manbij.
The Syrian government has called for Turkey to leave the area and accused Turkey of supporting terrorism, destroying Syrian infrastructure and backing opposition Syrian opposition forces that are seeking the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.