Turkey arrests members of pro-Kurdish opposition party

The prosecutor’s statement Friday said the arrests were being ordered “regarding the calls for protests” at the time by the Kurdistan Wo...



The prosecutor’s statement Friday said the arrests were being ordered “regarding the calls for protests” at the time by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a banned militant group in Turkey, as well as the Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, the pro-Kurdish opposition party, which is legal. Turkish authorities have accused the HDP of supporting violent acts by the insurgent PKK, a charge the party denies.

The prosecutor’s statement did not explain why six years have passed between the alleged crimes and the arrest warrants. The government has pursued a crackdown on the HDP, which promotes greater cultural rights and autonomy for Turkey’s Kurds. Dozens of elected mayors from the HDP have been removed from their offices over the past few years and replaced with government-appointed trustees.

Those detained Friday included Ayhan Bilgen, a prominent mayor from Kars in eastern Turkey and one of the few HDP mayors who has managed to retain his position during the purge. At least two of the party’s former members of parliament were also arrested, according to local media reports.

In an interview with The Washington Post in June, Bilgen said he and other remaining HDP mayors were facing intensifying pressure from authorities and government-friendly media outlets and that they expected to be arrested at any moment.

“We joke with another, wondering whose turn is next,” he said.

Footage of his arrest Friday, posted on Twitter, showed Bilgen being led by officers to the back of a blue armored vehicle as a small group of onlookers shouted, “Mayor Ayhan, we are proud of you.”

Gursel Tekin, a lawmaker with the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, called the arrest orders “political” in a Twitter post. “Trying to criminalize the HDP and the democratic political space is a great disservice to Turkey,” he added.

The battle for Kobane, which began in September 2014, was a watershed moment in the fight against the Islamic State, unfolding within shouting distance of Turkey’s border — in full view of the international news media — and ending with the first major defeat of the militant group.

It also marked a milestone in Turkey’s deteriorating relationship with the country’s Kurdish movement. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which had been pursuing peace talks with the PKK, angered Kurds by refusing to allow fighters or weapons across its border to aid Kurdish fighters in Kobane.

As tens of thousands of Kurdish refugees from Syria streamed across the frontier, the protests over three days in early October 2014 shocked Turkey, leaving nearly 800 people injured as vehicles and shops were set ablaze in Kurdish-majority cities.

The government justified its actions in part by saying that providing military aid to Syrian Kurdish fighters affiliated with the PKK amounted to supporting terrorists. Ankara relented in late October under intense international pressure and allowed Iraqi Kurdish fighters aligned with Turkey to assist in the defense of Kobane.

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Newsrust: Turkey arrests members of pro-Kurdish opposition party
Turkey arrests members of pro-Kurdish opposition party
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