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Health workers in crosshairs as Kurdish conflict flares

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There is mounting concern about the welfare of civilians in south-east Turkey amid reports health workers and ambulances have come under attack as a conflict between government forces and Kurdish rebels intensifies.

The World Medical Association has appealed to the Turkish Government to restore basic health services to the region amid reports from the Turkish Medical Association that paramedics have been assaulted and ambulances blocked from aiding the sick and injured in a number of cities including Diyarbakir, Cizre, Varto, Yuksekova, Lice and Silvan.

‘We are receiving alarming reports from the Turkish Medical Association about ambulances not being allowed to tend to those killed and wounded in the fighting in the city, or take them to hospital,” WMA President Dr Xavier Deau said.

“The Government curfew prevented people from going out to buy food and water, and no outside observers are being allowed to visit the city to investigate the situation.

“This lack of basic health care, and the failure to allow health professionals to move freely in the city, is a scandal that must end.

“We urge the Turkish Government to bring a halt to this inhumane
situation and to allow health professionals to care for the sick and
wounded.”

Fighting in the area, which lies close to war-wracked Syria and Iraq, has intensified in the past two months as the central government seeks to contain and eliminate a Kurdish-led insurgency that has claimed more than 40,000 lives since hostilities broke out in 1984.

The fighting has dashed hopes that when the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party won 14 per cent of the vote in a national election in June marked an end to the conflict. Instead, both President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and hardline militants in the separatist PKK movement have been accused of stoking tensions, causing a resumption of hostilities that so far are estimated to have left more than 100 soldiers and police dead, and at least as many rebels.

Adrian Rollins

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