Protesters storm Turkish military base outside Shiladze, Duhok province, January 26, 2019. Photo: Rudaw video
SHILADZE, Kurdistan Region – Sixteen people accused of storming a Turkish military base in Duhok province last month remain in Asayesh custody three weeks after the death of several civilians in a Turkish airstrike sparked unrest.
Clashes outside the town of Shiladze on January 26
came two days after a Turkish airstrike killed six civilians in a valley close to the Turkish border.
Ankara says it is targeting members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the area suspected of staging cross border raids.
Fed up with the toll the three-decade conflict is taking on civilians, hundreds of residents marched on the nearby Turkish military base to demand an end to the airstrikes.
One teenager was allegedly killed
by Turkish soldiers and several more injured.
Sonic booms caused by Turkish jets circling above provoked panic among protesters.
Kurdish Asayesh security force were stunned by the ferocity of the protests, detaining more than 60 people – including journalists.
“Those arrested included members of all political parties as well as people with no [political] affiliation,” Khattab Omar told Rudaw Monday, speaking on behalf of the detainees’ legal team.
“Some have committed no crime and were at home when the protests occurred. We have asked the Asayesh for proof, but they have no evidence that these individuals participated in the attack on the Turkish army base. We don’t know why they have been arrested,” he added.
Bezhar Rashid, head of the General Asayesh in Duhok, branded those arrested as troublemakers.
“Those arrested wanted to disturb the peace in Duhok and in Kurdistan. Anyone who has a permission to protest and want to protest peacefully, we won’t prevent them,” Rashid told Rudaw.
“However there are several individuals in Duhok… wherever there is dissent or a gathering, they take charge.”
“A foreign hand is behind these individuals,” he added.
Turkey has established roughly two dozen army bases mainly in Duhok province to gather intelligence and watch the PKK, which uses Duhok’s mountains as a corridor to send fighters into Hakkari and Sirnak in southeast Turkey to attack security forces.
Turkey has responded by unleashing relentless aerial bombardments using drones and jets, killing scores of civilians in the Kurdistan Region since 1992 when Ankara established its first army base in the region.
Since a short-lived peace process between the PKK and the Turkish state collapsed in July 2015
, Turkey has intensified
its bombing campaign against suspected PKK hideouts in Duhok and the Qandil Mountains, leading to more civilian deaths
The Asayesh has released most of those detained in connection with the protest. Omar believes political considerations in the forming of the new government in Erbil were a factor in their release – particularly those with ties to the main parties.
“Initially more than 60 individuals were arrested, but some of them were released because they were members or supporters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Change Movement and because of political dealings over the formation of the government,” he said.
Duhok’s Asayesh chief rejected the claim and said the detention of the remaining 16 has been legally sanctioned by a judge.
Turkey has said it will continue targeting the PKK in these mountains.
The toll on communities is evident. Residents of twelve villages in Duhok province have fled
, fearing for their lives.
“Life has no joy anymore in Shiladze, people feel powerless,” civil activist Ahmad Shamki told Rudaw by telephone from the city.
“We cannot go and retrieve the bodies of two of the six civilians killed by Turkish air strike [on January 24] in the mountains. We are scared of more attacks.”
Reporting by Nasr Ali and Zhelwan Z. Wali