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Turkey Blocks Opposition March to Curfew-hit City

A parliamentarian from the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, Osman Baydemir (L), scuffles with riot police as he walks with his party members to the southeastern town of Cizre, near Idil in Sirnak province, Turkey, Sept. 10, 2015.

Turkish security forces Thursday stopped a group of pro-Kurdish politicians from marching to Cizre — a city of 120,000 close to the borders with Syria and Iraq — where they say a week-long curfew has triggered a humanitarian crisis and killed 21 civilians.

Turkish Interior Minister Selami Altinok told reporters in Ankara that members of parliament from the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party, or HDP, will not be allowed in Cizre, where a curfew is in effect. The government says it launched a military operation in the city and imposed the curfew to eliminate Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants after a string of attacks inside Turkey.

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People's Party, the CHP, has called on the prime minister to explain the reason for the state of emergency in Cizre, in the southeastern province of Sirnak, while demanding an end to the curfew.

The co-chair of the HDP, Selahattin Demirtas, and other HDP parliamentarians, started a 90-kilometer-long march Wednesday to Cizre, but security forces halted their convoy.

Intensifying situation

The group launched a protest Thursday near the borders with Syria and Iraq after soldiers blocked their path. There was no electricity or Internet in Cizre, and no information from governmental officials was available.

Meanwhile, officials from the far-right Nationalist Movement Party, the MHP, denied any involvement in demonstrations against the PKK and the most recent violence in many cities after the funerals of police officers and soldiers killed during attacks.

Hilmi Hacaloglu, a freelance reporter for VOA's Turkish service, reported from a rally organized by Leyla Zana, an MP from the HDP, who was in the group trying to reach Cizre. Zana held a news conference and said she will start a hunger strike if it will help to stop the fighting.

Zana was imprisoned for 10 years for supporting the PKK, and after her release was elected as an MP.

"I am ready to die to prevent young people from dying,” she said.

She criticized the government for discriminating against the Kurdish population in Turkey.

Backlash potential

Some analysts are warning the government to stop the strong-arm tactics to deal with the issue, as they may be counterproductive for the ruling party ahead of snap elections set for November 1.

Meanwhile, pro-Kurdish media quoted HDP deputy Mehmet Ali Aslan, who currently is trapped in Cizre, as saying at least eight civilians were killed in attacks by Turkish forces overnight.

The government says the curfew will last for as long as necessary, a decision criticized by the HDP's Demirtas.

"It is impossible to go out and buy bread; the water supply is failing and there is no electricity," the HDP quoted Demirtas as saying Thursday on the road to the city. "In Cizre, 120,000 people have been held hostage by the state for a week," he added.

He said the bodies of young girls and boys caught in the crossfire could not even be buried.

"They put ice on the corpses to stop them putrefying, because burials are banned," said Demirtas.