Turkish streets 'turned into battlefields'

Story highlights

  • Emin Ozmen has been documenting Turkey's fight with Kurdish rebels
  • He spent time in Kurdish areas that have been under 24-hour curfew

(CNN)Turkey has been fighting Kurdish rebels for more than 30 years, and the conflict has only intensified since a fragile ceasefire ended last summer.

While rebels claim responsibility for deadly car bombs in the capital, the Turkish military is cracking down in the southeast where cities and towns are heavily Kurdish.
    The violence has claimed lives on both sides -- and even civilians caught in the middle.
    "My country is living a very hard time right now," photographer Emin Ozmen said. "I have to document it. People in Turkey and out of Turkey should see it to understand where we are going."
    For the past six months, Ozmen has been in southeastern Turkey, visiting the front lines of a conflict that has claimed more than 40,000 lives over the past three decades.
    Photographer Emin Ozmen
    He photographed several areas that were under a 24-hour curfew as the Turkish military tried to root out the enemy.
    Residents are given one day's notice so they can leave before the curfews go into effect, Ozmen said. Thousands do.
    But he said "for the people who decide to stay, the daily life is deprivation: no water, no electricity, no food. In every city, in every neighborhood, (there's) the same decor: streets turned into battlefields. At each intersection, barricades and trenches."
    Ozmen started in Diyarbakir and later moved on to Derik, Sirnak, Silopi, Cizre, Nusaybin and Idil.
    "I went before, after and during the curfew times," Ozmen said. "I witnessed the people who fled from their homes, I saw the tears of the people who lost their relatives. I also spent some nights with young militants behind the barricades. I wanted to meet the young fighters to understand why they are fighting."

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    Ozmen's photos of Cizre show a town in ruins. He got in at the end of a 24-hour curfew that lasted 78 days.
    "What I witnessed there was unforgettable," he said. "I was really shocked to see this kind of scene in my country: 40% of the city was totally destroyed during the clashes.
    "Some people still had no news from their relatives, maybe executed or dead during the fights. People were in deep shock and sadness. It was hard to see all the families turning back for the first time to their home after they fled and discovering it was totally destroyed. Many of them lost everything."
    Cizre's curfew has been scaled back to 10 hours, from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., Ozmen said. But the 24-hour curfews still remain in effect for many other areas, and neither side has shown any intention of letting up.
    "This conflict seems endless," the photographer said.