The peal of church bells mingles with children’s laughter. The Muslim call to prayer floats through the air. In the cobbled courtyard of the Surp Giragos Armenian Orthodox Church, young lovers sip wine and plan their weddings and lives. It’s a typical day in Sur, the ancient heart of the Kurds’ unofficial capital, Diyarbakir.
So it was until armed teenagers with the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), the urban youth branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), declared “self rule” over large swathes of Sur, erecting barricades and digging trenches to keep state authorities out. The pattern is being repeated in towns and cities across the Kurdish-majority southeast, part of the escalating war between the Turkish armed forces and the PKK that was reignited following the collapse of a two-year cease-fire in July. Over 150 civilians, including dozens of children, have been killed, most of them by the security forces, claim rights advocates.