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Turkish Police Arrest, Torture Scores of Kurdish Villagers
By Ari Khalidi

Turkish special police units arrested and tortured scores of people over the weekend in the Semdinli district of Kurdish Hakkari Province where clashes between the government forces and rebel fighters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) were taking place.

Contacted by Kurdistan 24 on Monday, one of the tortured who wished to remain unidentified due to personal safety concerns, said hundreds of members of Turkish Police Special Operation Department on late Sunday night raided his village of Sapata in Semdinli where authorities imposed a curfew on July 14.

"They immediately gathered over 100 people including women and children from their houses, begin hitting and insulting us right there in the village square before arresting 36 men," the villager said over the phone.

Pictures of some men tortured by Turkish special operations police in the Semdinli district of the Kurdish Province of Hakkari, August 7, 2017. ( DIHABER)

The raid came a day after the Saturday killing of one Turkish police officer during clashes with the PKK near the village in a mountainous region close the border with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and Iranian Kurdistan.

Being among the detainees, he said officers tortured him and others by punching, kicking, and hitting with truncheons, plastic tubes, and sticks on their backs, heads and arms for hours during their detention at night at police headquarters in Semdinli.

He sent Kurdistan 24 pictures showing the bruised backs of two men whom police released on Monday.

"They tortured some of us until the morning," he said, adding officers more aggressively hit those who had photographs of Kurdish political leaders or symbols on their mobile phones.

Upon the release of most of the men in the morning, he said they went to the local state hospital where they hoped to get a medical report on their condition.

But a doctor named E.Ç. who herself accused the villagers of aiding PKK fighters, refused to examine their tortured bodies and called the police who came to the hospital, effectively preventing them from any further appeal.

According to Kurdistan 24 source, two people remained in detention.

The villager also revealed that the local prosecutor and Ankara-appointed sub governor did not heed their complaints either.

"There is no rule of law. They are all on the same side," he said, stating the officials denied any wrongdoing by government forces who until Monday did not allow anyone from getting in or out of the village which has a population of five thousand.

Upon the reports of torture, hundreds of villagers mostly women and the young who felt safer to protest took to the street and began walking toward central Semdinli, but state forces blocked their passage and forced them to return, he said.

"If a man says a word they would immediately lynch him," he explained, adding police tortured people in Sapat before in at least one recent occasion two months ago.

"They arbitrarily took men from inside their houses and beat them in front of women and their children."

There was no official statement by the Hakkari governorate or the Ankara government at the time of publishing this report.

Torture allegedly has spiked in Turkey since last year when a rogue clique within the army staged a botched coup against the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A December 2016 United Nations (UN) report called on the Turkish government to live up to its previous "zero tolerance" policy on torture, a promise Erdogan has repeatedly given since his coming to power in 2003.

The UN stated that Turkish law granting security forces immunity from prosecution rendered investigations into allegations of torture on Kurdish inmates and detainees "more difficult, if not impossible."

In February, the Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu came to the defense of Turkish troops who tortured a 57-year-old Kurdish man in a curfew-imposed village of the Mardin Province.

"The man you call elderly was hosting terrorists that our security forces neutralized," the Minister told opposition lawmakers who criticized the authorities responsible.

Editing by Ava Homa.

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