Three Turkish soldiers wounded by PKK gunfire, highways remain blocked

Three Turkish soldiers were wounded, one of them heavily, by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants who fired at soldiers from a distance as they were trying to remove a road block on a highway in southeastern Turkey, reports Today’s Zaman.

A gendarmerie unit which went on Saturday to an area near the town of Lice in Diyarbakır province to disperse militants and clear the blocked highway between Diyarbakır and Bitlis was attacked with home-made bombs by members of a youth organization of the PKK, which had blocked the road.

During the clash on the highway between members of the PKK’s youth wing, the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDGH), and the gendarmerie forces, who used tear gas against the militants, one of the soldiers was injured in the foot by a home-made bomb.

After the gendarmerie forces dispersed the militants, who were protesting a new gendarmerie outpost to be built in the area, the gendarmes came under fire from the surrounding mountainous area.

Two soldiers were wounded by the gunfire, one of them in the chest. The wounded were taken to a hospital by an ambulance helicopter. Media outlets affiliated with the PKK reported that two militants were also injured.

On Friday, gendarme units had also launched a large-scale operation to eliminate road blocks and disperse YDGH militants on the highway. Security forces filled in the seven trenches dug on the road by the militants. Following the withdrawal of the gendarmes the same evening, the trenches were once again dug by members of the YDHG.

Despite the gerndarmerie’s operations, the highway, which has been blocked since last Saturday, is still under the control of the YDGH.

In the north of Diyarbakır province, only a single highway is open for transportation, which vehicles can only use when in a convoy accompanied by an armored escort.

The Diyarbakır-Lice, Lice-Bingöl and Kulp-Muş highways have now been blocked for eight days.

At the end of 2012, the government launched a settlement process to resolve once and for all the country’s terrorism problem and Kurdish issue through talks with Abdullah Öcalan, jailed leader of the PKK.

The process has somewhat stalled since then, with the PKK announcing in September last year that it had stopped the withdrawal of PKK from Turkey, which was a condition of the negotiations. The issues of democratization related to the Kurdish issue that were announced by the government at the end of September last year fell short of satisfying the expectations of the armed group.

Possibly encouraged by the ongoing settlement process, some Kurdish families whose children have been abducted in past months by the PKK as recruits launched a sit-in protest in Diyarbakır about two weeks ago, calling for the terrorist organization to send their children back to their families.

More than 70 families took part in the sit-in protest in front of the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality building against the PKK last week, but on Friday, most of the families said in an announcement — possibly under pressure from the terrorist organization — they were temporarily halting the sit-in. Currently, 25 families have continued with the protest.

In a parliamentary press conference on Friday, Haluk Koç, deputy chairman and spokesman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), criticized the government for its ineffectiveness regarding the issue of abducted children. Koç stated that the government “is bowing before the PKK.”

Three deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) went on Sunday to İmralı Island prison to speak with Öcalan about the settlement process.

HDP Deputy Chairman Sırrı Süreyya Önder, the party’s parliamentary group deputy co-chairs İdris Baluken and Pervin Buldan left İstanbul early in the day for İmralı. On their return, the HDP deputies are expected to share Öcalan’s thoughts about road blocks in the southeast and children kidnapped by the PKK with the public.

Despite the ongoing settlement process, the PKK has continued to abduct children, some of whom are just 15-16 years old, as recruits. According to a recent report by the National Police Department’s Antiterrorism Unit, in the past six months, the PKK has forcibly recruited 317 children.

After the report was released, 14 students who were attending a spring festival on April 23 in the town of Lice near Diyarbakır organized by the Revolutionist Patriot High School Youth, a youth organization of the PKK, were taken to the military group’s camps in the mountains. With the 14 children taken away in April, the total number of children who have been taken to the mountains since the start of the settlement process has risen to 331.


About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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