Children returning from a wedding in Kurdish national costume were reportedly stopped and subjected to an identity check by masked Turkish Special Forces in the Beytüşşebap (Elkê) district of Şırnak (Şirnex), a Kurdish majority province in southeast Turkey. The children, aged between 12 and 17, were forced to face a wall during the procedure, a scene captured on video by a local resident.
The video shows the five children standing with their hands against the wall, their faces turned away. A Special Forces officer can be heard warning, “If you don’t have your IDs with you when passing through the control point in the future, I will apply have you punished.”
Eyewitnesses reported that four of the children had their IDs with them, while the 12-year-old, who is not legally required to carry identification, did not. There are also unconfirmed allegations that the children were physically assaulted by the officers before being lined up against the wall.
Newroz Uysal Aslan, MP for Şırnak from the pro-Kurdish Green Left Party and also a member of the Human Rights Inquiry Committee of the Turkish parliament, condemned the incident. “This is hostility; hostility towards the national costume, the existence and the children of the Kurds. Those masked Special Forces officers should be immediately investigated, removed from duty and prosecuted”, she said.
Aslan criticised the militarisation of the region, with Special Forces patrolling cities in armoured vehicles armed with long-barrelled guns, and the intimidation of the local population, particularly children. “We stand firmly against this policy of Special Warfare,” she added.
Aslan called on national and international children’s organisations to take action in response to this incident, tagging UNICEF Turkey, Amnesty International and the Ministry of Family and Social Services in her statement.
A seven-day entry and exit ban has been imposed on four areas in the Beytüşşebap district. The ban, which also prohibits all civilian activities in these areas, is in effect from 29 July to 4 August.
The Şırnak Governor’s Office announced, “Entry and exit from, and all civilian activities in, the regions among the rural areas of Red Stream, Öküzburun Hill, Siyahçeşme Stream and Ballı Stream in the countryside around Bilbis village in Beytüşşebap district, Şırnak province, is forbidden to all members of the public whom it is considered may go there, for 7 days from 17:00 on 29 July 2023 to 24:00 on 4 August 2023.”
This is not an isolated incident. The Governor’s Office previously announced a 15-day ban on civilian activities in several rural areas connected to the Andaç (Elemûn) village in the Uludere (Qileban) district, from 27 July to 10 August. These increasing restrictions and the visible military presence in the region highlight the concerns raised by Aslan about the militarisation of the area.