Local press reports say the body of Kurdish journalist Rohat Aktaş was identified Wednesday among the dead collected from a basement in the middle of the clashes at southeastern Turkey between Kurdish rebels and Turkish security forces. Turkey has been conducting intense anti-terrorism operations at urban areas for months while both sides of the clashes either blame each other for hundreds of civilian deaths or conflict on who is a civilian or not. Aktaş, responsible news editor for the Kurdish language daily Azadiya Welat (Homeland’s Freedom), was at a hot zone in Cizre District of Şırnak Province and had to take shelter at a basement of a building with others after being shot. Ambulances could not approach the area and everybody in that basement got killed due to heavy weaponry employed. Thousands of people from Cizre and other similar towns had to flee from their homes. According to reports, the bodies collected from the basement were burnt beyond recognition and DNA tests were applied for identification.
CPJ has contacted Azadiya Welat and expressed concern for the well being of the journalist. According to the daily, Aktaş has been there for 80 days; was shot in the arm on January 22 and they did not have contact with him for days. During that time, Cizre was a forbidden zone which led to conflicting reports and statements from the pro-Kurdish and government media and politicians. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) stated the government was not allowing ambulances in the area while the government said the ambulances cannot get close because the Kurdish militants do not allow them. “Nobody can claim that Turkey broke the law while fighting against terror,” Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said on January 28 and added: “We fight against terror and we would take all kinds of measures to rush any wounded person to hospital, no matter whether [he or she] is a terrorist… But if ambulances wish to reach there, then terror elements there should immediately get out.” Kurdish lawyers approached the European Court of Human Rights but the court decided it is a domestic law matter. The operations at Cizre were declared to be at an end on February 11.