A group of demonstrators protesting the construction of a gendarmerie post, reportedly to ensure the protection of a new dam in Diyarbakır’s Silvan district, have hung flags of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and its jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan, at the building site.
Demonstrators, including members of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), have been protesting against the gendarmerie post since construction started six months ago. Officials said the post was slated to provide security for the Babakaya tunnel that will supply water to the reservoir of the Silvan hydroelectric plant. Protesters have also been denouncing attempts to accelerate the construction of posts across the region.
On May 13, a group of protesters demolished part of a two-meter-high stone wall built around the construction zone, Doğan News Agency reported. The group also hung flags on some parts of the wall.
Protesters camping since May 10 received support from the BDP’s Diyarbakır provincial head, Zübeyde Zümrüt, Silvan Co-Mayor Yüksek Bodakçı and other local party officials.
“The gendarmerie posts that are currently being built are contrary to the dialogue and negotiation process launched with the democratic process a year-and-a-half ago. Post constructions should be halted and the village guard [system] abolished,” Zümrüt said.
Eighteen-year-old Medeni Yıldırım, who is commemorated as one of the eight youths killed during the Gezi Park protests, was shot by soldiers during a protest against the construction of a similar post in Diyarbakır’s Lice district in June 2013.
The dam construction sparked further controversy after the local governor’s office in Silvan announced that 180 temporary village guards would be recruited for the protection of tunnel construction in the area.
Abolishing the system has been intensely debated for years, particularly following the start of the Kurdish peace process last year.
Village guards are branded as the continuation of the area’s historical feudal system, empowering local clans. Human rights associations have also accused many of the guards of involvement in illegal activities and of benefiting from a culture of impunity.