Military Operation in Southern Turkey 'Reminiscent of Spanish Inquisition'

© AFP 2022 / Ilyas AKENGINKurdish fighter walks through barricads in the Sur district in Diyarbakir on December 11, 2015
Kurdish fighter walks through barricads in the Sur district in Diyarbakir on December 11, 2015 - Sputnik International
On Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed that the Kurdish-populated Sur district in the southern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, devastated by street battles between Turkish security forces and Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters, would be "beautifully restored." Turkish journalist Zekine Turkeri doesn't believe him.

"We will reconstruct Diyarbakir's Sur so beautifully that it will become a tourist attraction with its architectural texture," Davutoglu said, speaking in the course of his visit to Riyadh to meet with Saudi officials. 

The devastated district, the prime minister suggested, would be rebuilt "just like Toledo," a UNESCO World Heritage Site that underwent painstaking reconstruction following the Spanish Civil War.

Commenting on Davutoglu's statements, Zekine Turkeri, a Turkish journalist living in Spain, told Sputnik Turkey that discussing the reconstruction of Sur is nothing more than wishful thinking, and that comparing the historic district with Spain's Toledo, moreover, borders on the ludicrous.

Turkish soldiers take cover in front of a barricade during clashes with Kurdish militants in Silvan on November 13, 2015 - Sputnik International
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"From a historical perspective, Toledo is a city of great importance. The city is famous for the fact that through its history, three cultures – Islamic, Christian and Jewish, managed to coexist on its territory. Toledo is an example of the mixing and convergence of cultures. It is also possible to cite the city as an example of a center of civilizational development, and of cultural tolerance."

"Considering what we see happening in Sur at the moment, it is especially strange to listen to the prime minister's statements," Turkeri noted.

Currently, Sur faces heavy fighting, with the military using heavy equipment and subjecting the district's Kurdish civilian residents to 24-hour curfews.

In one way, Turkeri lamented, comparing 15th century Toledo with 21st century Sur is appropriate. "During the Middle Ages, Toledo was the center of the Spanish Inquisition. Many of the city's Jews were burned in the inquisitorial bonfires. From this perspective, the harassment faced by the population of Jewish neighborhoods in 15th century Toledo is not unlike what the inhabitants of Sur are forced to go through today."

"According to the court of the Inquisition, too, Jews were forbidden to go into the streets of the city. But in Toledo's case we are talking about the end of the 15th century."

Unfortunately, the journalist suggested, the current Turkish government will not be able to save and rebuild Sur's historical and cultural heritage, and any comparisons to Spain's Toledo are inappropriate. "At the moment, in the course of military operations, Sur is facing the deliberate targeting and destruction of everything, including its historical heritage. What kind of reconstruction work in the near future the prime minister is talking about, I simply cannot fathom."

Kurdish demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against a curfew in Sur district and security operations in the region, in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey January 17, 2016. - Sputnik International
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Tensions in southern Turkey escalated last summer, after 33 Kurdish activists were killed in a suicide blast in Suruc. After the killing of two police officers by the PKK militants, Ankara launched a military campaign against the group. In his New Year's address, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that security forces had killed 3,100 PKK militants in 2015. Another 600 are said to have been killed since December.

Late last month, a report by Amnesty International accused Turkish security forces of using excessive force in its attempts to apprehend or kill Kurdish rebels, calculating that Ankara now endangers the lives of up to 200,000 of its own citizens, subjecting them to 'collective punishment'.

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