Images reveal devastating impact of Turkish military’s offensive in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish city of Nusaybin

Levent Kenez


The Turkish military’s own photos and confidential data gathered during military operations carried out in the Nusaybin district of Mardin province against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in 2016 reveal dramatic pictures of devastation and human suffering in the predominantly Kurdish city in Turkey’s southeastern region. 

Previously unpublished images obtained by Nordic Monitor show yet again that the Turkish military used heavy weapons, leaving a large number of structures including houses in ruins. Some photographs taken by security forces were published by the Turkish media in 2016, but a number of them were held back from public release since it was felt that pictures of wounded civilians would tarnish the military’s image amid ongoing discussions on the use of excessive military force.



The photos show groups of people holding white flags and walking through a street in ruins in Nusaybin, where a curfew had been declared. A private is seen ordering the groups that surrendered to lie on the ground. Two men are also carrying a young woman who was apparently struck in the calf on a stretcher made of a blanket. In the following images, paramedics are pictured rendering first aid.



Turkish security forces launched an operation to drive out members of the outlawed PKK who had set up barricades and declared autonomy in Nusaybin and several cities in southeastern Turkey on March 14, 2016 following the breakdown of a ceasefire between the Turkish military and the PKK in July 2015. According to an official document, the military operation ended on June 4, 2016, having lasted 83 days.

Nordic Monitor recently revealed that then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on February 16, 2016 ordered the General Staff to launch a security operation in Nusaybin using full operational capability, signaling that the government would turn a blind eye to civilian casualties and human rights violations.

According to official documents, a total of 70 security force members were killed during the 83-day-long operation, while 50 PKK members were confirmed killed and 360 were claimed by the army to have been “neutralized,” Turkish military jargon meaning killed but not confirmed. Human rights organizations claim that at least 24 civilians were also killed in Nusaybin.

Security forces filled 53 trenches and removed 515 barricades in Nusaybin, seizing 1,501 improvised explosive devices.

Eleven tanks and 27 Cobra helicopters were officially declared to have been used during the offensive. In addition to the army troops, 300 officers from the PÖH [special police units] participated in the skirmishes.

In February 2019 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) declined to consider complaints regarding incidents in the region during Turkish military operations on the grounds that domestic legal remedies had not yet been exhausted.

In the last local elections, on March 31, 2019, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) garnered around 77 percent of the vote; however, elected Nusaybin Mayor Semire Cengiz was arrested on October 17, 2019 over terrorism links and was replaced by a state-appointed trustee the following day.


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