The leader of Turkey's pro-Kurdish political party called for resistance against a large-scale security operation in the country's southeast after fierce urban fighting that state media claims has killed dozens of Kurdish militants.
Authorities imposed a curfew on the towns of Cizre and Silopi, where residents had dug trenches and constructed barricades to bar access to security forces, leading to heavy clashes. Officials say 10,000 police and military personnel are employed in the operation, which is also making use of heavy weaponry, including tanks.
Selahattin Demirtas, co-leader of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), urged local residents to "expand the struggle" and embrace "honorable resistance" at a press conference on Friday.
"If they think they can make us take a step back by showing a tank gun, they are wrong," he said, according to Reuters. "We fear nobody but God. We call on all civil society groups to embrace resistance in the lands of Kurdistan."
An unnamed security official told the state-run Anadolu Agency that at least 55 Kurdish militants had died in clashes with security forces over the past three days. One soldier and two civilians are also reported to have been killed in Cizre, according to local media. The militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) often disputes state-issued claims of casualties inflicted on the group, saying the numbers are vastly inflated.
Footage from Cizre that was published by the local Dogan News Agency showed smoke rising over the town as the sound of small arms fire punctuated by explosions rung out. Another video showed heavy gunfire at night as residents banged pots and pans and chanted anti-government slogans in a show of defiance.
In the nearby city of Diyabrkair, police dispersed a demonstration against the operationusingwater cannon trucks and tear gas. The city's Sur district has also been the focus of a similar security crackdown.
Violence has escalated in Turkey since July, when a temporary ceasefire between the PKK and the government collapsed. More than 550 people, including 150 civilians, have now been killed in the past six months, according to the International Crisis Group. The PKK, which Turkey and the United States have designated a terrorist organization, had previously battled the Turkish state in a bloody three-decade insurgency that left 40,000 dead.
Security forces have escalated military activity in the southeast, arresting hundreds in Kurdish areas, including HDP members, and imposing strict curfews that left civilians trapped in their homes. In response, armed youth groups, which PKK leaders have told VICE News are not under their direct control, fought police with guns, rockets, and Molotov cocktails.
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