Türkiye: wave of arrests among Kurd activists as the elections approach
On Tuesday, about 110 people were arrested in Türkiye in an “anti-terrorism” operation targeting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which was described as an “attempt to intimidate” three weeks before the elections.
The Diyarbakir Bar Association said in response to questions from Agence France-Presse that the operation, which the police carried out simultaneously in 21 provinces, including the Kurdish-majority Diyarbakir in southeastern Türkiye, was unprecedented in terms of scale.
The Diyarbakir Bar Association added that “the total number of arrests may reach 150,” including no less than “20 lawyers, 5 journalists, 3 stage actors and a politician”.
The Turkish police reported that 110 people had been arrested, and the private NTV channel reported that 126 had been arrested.
The syndicate stated that the lawyers were prevented from communicating with their clients for 24 hours.
Reporters Without Borders counted the arrest of 11 journalists, including officials of the Kurdish al Nahrain News Agency and others from several publications.
In the afternoon, dozens gathered in the streets of Diyarbakir, amidst a heavy deployment of riot police, “Rebel against fascism” was chanted, rejecting the arrests, and some violent confrontations took place.
In a statement, the head of the union in Diyarbakir, Nahid Eren, denounced “an attempt to intimidate the Kurdish voters”.
“We cannot say that this is an independent process separate from the political program in the country… The process looks like intimidation of Kurdish voters”.
Public broadcaster TRT reported that the arrested people are suspected of financing the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara and its Western allies classify as a terrorist organization and banned in the country, or of recruiting new members.
TRT added that the suspects may have transferred money to the PKK through companies operating from municipalities run by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party.
For its part, the non-governmental organization MLSA for the Defense of Freedoms stated that “the homes of many people, including journalists, lawyers and officials of non-governmental organizations, were searched in the early hours of the morning”.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party, whose candidate for the 2018 presidential elections came third, with 8.4% of the vote, is considered a kingmaker in the upcoming elections on May 14, in which competition appears to be fierce.
In a statement, the party denounced “the process of stealing the ballot and robbing the people will,” speaking of the government’s “panic” with the approaching elections.
Presidential and legislative elections will be held on May 14 in Türkiye, and will decide whether or not President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party, which has ruled the country for two decades, will remain in power.
The opposition is running in the elections as a united front of six parties that chose one candidate for the presidency, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, backed by the Peoples’ Democratic Party.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party is the third political force in the country and the second opposition organization in Parliament.
Its co-chair and main figure in the party, Selahattin Demirtaş, has been imprisoned since 2016 on charges of “terrorist propaganda”.
“They won’t be able to prevent peace, prosperity and democracy,” Demirtaş wrote on Twitter.
On the other hand, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is under threat of closing its application in January before the Constitutional Court, accusing the organization of being linked in an organic way to the PKK.
On April 18, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu accused his rival, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of stigmatizing the Kurds by linking them to terrorism.
Currently, millions of Kurds are being treated as terrorists,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in a short video posted on social media.