Fighting between the Turkish armed forces and members of the country’s Kurdish minority has left at least 30 dead in the city of Cizre since the military began its campaign against Kurdish militants there last week.
Members of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) claimed that 20 civilians were among the dead, though Turkish officials insist that the majority of those killed were targeted extremists.
Cizre, a city of about 100,000, sits about 30 miles from the Syria and Iraq borders in Turkey’s beleaguered southeast, where tensions between the government and Kurdish insurgents have escalated since a two-year cease-fire effectively broke down in July. Some locals feel that the military is holding them “under siege,” the BBC reports, possibly to penalize the city for supporting the HDP in a recent election.
The party denies popular allegations that it operates in conjunction with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish militant group responsible for recent attacks against military and police personnel in Turkey. Nevertheless, the party receives the brunt of local hostility towards Kurdish activism. Earlier this week, nationalist riots damaged HDP offices in Ankara and at least six other cities.
On Thursday, Turkish police prevented a group of HDP leaders from reaching Cizre by foot.