News / Middle East

    UN Calls for Human Rights Probe in Turkey

    FILE - Militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, stand in a bunker in Sirnak, Turkey, Dec. 23, 2015.
    FILE - Militants of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, stand in a bunker in Sirnak, Turkey, Dec. 23, 2015.
    Dorian Jones

    A video seemingly of the shooting of unarmed civilians in Turkey has sparked a U.N. official’s call Monday to investigate.

    The footage shows an attack on what appears to be civilians holding white flags who are seeking to assist those wounded in the predominantly Kurdish town of Cizre around 10 days ago. The town is at the center of a crackdown by Turkish security forces against the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK.

    U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, is calling on Turkish authorities for an immediate investigation.

    Using what is seen as unusually strong language, Zeid criticized reports that the journalist who filmed the shooting — and was injured — is now under investigation for terrorist propaganda.

    "Filming an atrocity is not a crime, but shooting unarmed civilians most certainly is," the U.N. commissioner said.

    There is growing concern by human rights groups nationally and internationally over the plight of injured civilians in towns under state-imposed 24-hour curfews.

    Three parliamentary deputies of the main pro-Kurdish party are on a hunger strike for a group of injured people trapped in a basement in Cizre. The people reportedly have not received assistance for nearly two weeks.

    "I spoke to people in Cizre who describe that there are 28 people sheltering in one cellar, four among them have died; three are in a critical situation,” Senior Turkey researcher Emma Sinclair Webb of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said last week. “This is an urgent situation the government needs to address."

    Propaganda, lies

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed such reports and concerns as terrorist propaganda.

    Calling the accusations lies, he said there were ambulances at the ready and that the deputies on a hunger strike are servants of the terrorists.

    Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu strongly defended the military operations Monday, saying many weapons had been confiscated from the rebels.

    Observers say that despite growing criticism, Ankara believes it still retains a free hand, as the United States and European Union need its cooperation in fighting the Islamic State group in neighboring Syria and in assisting with the migrant crisis.

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