Turkey de­tains Kur­dish lead­ers as deadly blast hits south­east

Au­thor­i­ties slap restric­tions on so­cial me­dia

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -


Turk­ish po­lice yes­ter­day de­tained al­most a dozen MPs from the coun­try’s main pro-Kur­dish party, in­clud­ing its two co-lead­ers, as eight peo­ple were killed in a deadly car bomb­ing blamed on Kur­dish mil­i­tants. Peo­ples’ Demo­cratic Party (HDP) colead­ers Se­la­hat­tin Demir­tas and Fi­gen Yuk­sekdag ap­peared before judges in the city of Di­yarbakir who were de­cid­ing whether to re­mand them in cus­tody, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

As the hear­ings got un­der­way, a blast blamed on the out­lawed Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party (PKK) struck out­side a po­lice sta­tion nearby in the Baglar district of Di­yarbakir, Turkey’s main ma­jor­ity-Kur­dish city. Eight peo­ple were killed, in­clud­ing two po­lice, and over 100 wounded, Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim an­nounced, say­ing the PKK had again showed its “ugly face”.

With ten­sions again es­ca­lat­ing in Turkey nearly four months af­ter July’s failed mil­i­tary coup, au­thor­i­ties slapped restric­tions on so­cial me­dia in­clud­ing mes­sag­ing ser­vices like What­sApp. Yildirim con­firmed the move, say­ing such mea­sures were im­posed from “time to time” as a pre­cau­tion and would be lifted once the dan­ger had passed. The turbulence also bat­tered the Turk­ish lira, which fell to a new his­toric low against the dol­lar of 3.15 as in­vestors took fright at loom­ing in­sta­bil­ity.

‘Can­not stay silent’

The ar­rest of the HDP lead­ers, along with nine other MPs, is a ma­jor es­ca­la­tion of a crack­down on lead­ing proKur­dish politi­cians as Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan seeks to de­stroy the PKK. The HDP said in a state­ment that the goal of the mea­sures was to shut down the party, but it vowed not to sur­ren­der to these “dic­ta­to­rial poli­cies”. “This is a dark day not only for our party but for all of Turkey and the region as it means the end of democ­racy in Turkey,” it said.

EU for­eign pol­icy chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini said on Twit­ter she was “ex­tremely wor­ried” over the de­ten­tions and would call a meet­ing of EU am­bas­sadors in Ankara. For­eign Min­is­ter Frank-Wal­ter Stein­meier sum­moned Turkey’s en­voy to the for­eign min­istry in Berlin, a min­istry source said, adding Ger­many “could not re­main silent.” Demir­tas was de­tained at his home in Di­yarbakir in the early hours while Yuk­sekdag was de­tained in Ankara. Yuk­sekdag was then brought to Di­yarbakir where the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is cen­tred.

The pair had been tar­geted by sev­eral sep­a­rate probes over the last months but this is the first time that ei­ther has been de­tained. The se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions took place af­ter mid­night, with Demir­tas tweet­ing at 0130 lo­cal time (2230 GMT) that po­lice had ar­rived at his home and he was about to be de­tained. NTV tele­vi­sion said the pair were ac­cused of spreading pro­pa­ganda for the PKK while Anadolu said Demir­tas was ac­cused of pro­vok­ing vi­o­lence in deadly protests in Oc­to­ber 2014.

The sus­pects had also failed to re­spond to de­mands to give state­ments to pros­e­cu­tors, Anadolu said. The oth­ers de­tained in­clude prom­i­nent law­maker Sirri Sur­reya On­der, who in the past has been a point­man for con­tacts with jailed PKK leader Ab­dul­lah Ocalan. The head of the HDP’s fac­tion in the Turk­ish par­lia­ment, Idris Baluken, was also held and has al­ready been remanded in cus­tody ahead of trial. The gov­ern­ment said one of the MPs, Ziya Pir, had been re­leased on bail but an­other, Imam Ta­scier, had been de­tained af­ter elud­ing po­lice in the night.

‘Fur­ther despo­tism’

The raids come as Turkey re­mains under a state of emer­gency im­posed in the wake of the failed coup, which crit­ics say has gone well be­yond tar­get­ing the ac­tual coup plot­ters. Thir­teen staff from the op­po­si­tion Cumhuriyet news­pa­per, in­clud­ing the edi­tor-in-chief, were de­tained on Mon­day, fur­ther height­en­ing strains in Turk­ish so­ci­ety. The two co-may­ors of Di­yarbakir were also de­tained last month.

Ten­sions have surged in the Kur­dish­dom­i­nated south­east since a frag­ile cease­fire de­clared by the PKK col­lapsed in 2015, lead­ing to a re­sump­tion of deadly at­tacks on the se­cu­rity forces. The HDP, the third largest party in par­lia­ment, seeks to pro­mote the cause of Turkey’s Kur­dish mi­nor­ity and de­fend the rights of Kurds as well as those of women, gays and work­ers. The charisma in par­tic­u­lar of Demir­tas-dubbed the “Kur­dish Obama” by some ad­mir­ers af­ter the US pres­i­dent-earned it suc­cess at the bal­lot box but also made him an arch ri­val of Er­do­gan.

“We call upon our friends... to stand in sol­i­dar­ity in our strug­gle to pre­vent Er­do­gan to steer the coun­try into a civil war and fur­ther despo­tism,” the HDP said. Au­thor­i­ties ac­cuse the party of be­ing a PKK front and fail­ing to dis­tance it­self from ter­ror, claims it has al­ways ve­he­mently de­nied. —AFP

DI­YARBAKIR: Peo­ple run the streets near the ex­plo­sion site af­ter a strong blast in the south­east­ern Turk­ish city. —AFP

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