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Article 13: Freedom of movement in your own country and the right to leave and return to any country


Case Study: INTERNALLY DISPLACED IN TURKEY
  • During the 15-year conflict waged between the armed secessionist Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) and Turkish government forces, many villagers - the majority Kurds - were forced to flee their communities in south-eastern Turkey.
  • The Turkish government, security forces and paramilitaries are providing inadequate services to allow for the return of thousands of displaced villagers to their homes in the southeast, and in some cases are preventing it.

Context

The number of people displaced from southeast Turkey during the 15-year conflict between government forces and the armed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) has been estimated at over one million mainly Kurdish villagers.

Many of these villagers were forced out of their homes and off their land by Turkish security forces and paramilitary village guards with the aim of depriving the PKK of access to shelter, food, and recruits.

These displaced villagers have been living in deplorable conditions in cities across Turkey, hundreds of kilometres from their homes and livelihoods.

Resettlement

After the capture of Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the PKK, and since the PKK's declaration of a unilateral ceasefire in 1999, the government has announced a series of programmes for the return and resettlement of the internally displaced.

However, planning and financing has been inadequate and, as a result, these programmes have been largely unsuccessful.

The most recent return scheme, the Village Return and Rehabilitation Project, does not fulfil the international standards on the treatment of internally displaced persons as outlined in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

It excludes villagers from the planning process, has no special agency to manage it, no clear budget and after three years, its achievements have been limited to an unpublished feasibility study.

Human Rights Watch reported that since 1999 less than 10% of the internally displaced in Turkey have returned home. Many villages are in restricted military zones and local or regional authorities prevent them from returning.

In some cases, villagers have returned to find their land and houses taken over by village guards. Although most of the displaced are anxious to resume their former productive life, after a decade separated from their livelihood, they do not have the resources to buy equipment, seed and livestock.

They run the financial risk of being forced off their lands again.

Renouncing Rights

Furthermore, governors are refusing to give villagers permission to return unless they sign a form in which they renounce all rights to compensation.

The form also contains a declaration that excuses the state from any criminal responsibility for the displacement.

Villagers who refuse to sign the forms have been insulted and threatened.

Human rights advocates including Francis Deng, United Nations Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons, point to the need to set up a planning process that will enable the return of those displaced and to take steps to return villagers to the condition they were in when they were evacuated or forced to flee.