Over 100 Workers' Party members detained in quake-protest under police blockade in Istanbul

Turkish police battered and detained more than 100 Workers' Party of Turkey (TİP) members who wanted to protest the sale of tents by the Turkish Red Crescent (“Kızılay”) to a charity on the third day of the earthquakes. Riot police surrounded the party’s Istanbul provincial building and attacked the MPs while speaking to the press.

Eren Topuz / DUVAR

Turkish police attacked a demonstration organized by the Workers' Party of Turkey (TİP) Istanbul Provincial Organization in Kadıköy district to protest the sale of tents by the Turkish Red Crescent to charity organization AHBAP on the third day of the earthquakes.

More than 100 party members were battered and detained by the security forces on the night of Feb. 26 to 27 under the blockade of hundreds of police officers,

The police prevented journalists from taking video footage and then blockaded the TİP Istanbul Provincial Building. Riot police set up barriers at the entrance of the building and prevented the loading of packages to be sent to the earthquake zone from the building, which is also used as an aid coordination center, onto trucks.

TİP Deputy Chairman Doğan Ergün said, "Istanbul Provincial Chairman Cengiz Yeter, our MYK members, provincial and district executives, party executives, and volunteers who wanted to go to (quake-hit) Hatay were detained.” 

Representatives of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Labor Party (EMEP), and The Left Party (SOL) also went to TİP provincial building for solidarity.

On the other hand, main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu called TİP Chair Erkan Baş on the phone and conveyed his condolences to the party members who were subjected to the police attack.

TİP Chair Erkan Baş made a statement on his social media account and said, "The government, which did not lift a finger after the earthquake, attacked our party members who wanted to organize a press statement about the Turkish Red Crescent selling tents. There are earthquake victims among those detained. We are taking note of your actions and we will face you! Release the detainees immediately!"

Police also attacked the party MPs in front of the provincial building while they were talking to the press.

As the blockade continued, TİP executives held a press conference at the provincial building at night.

TİP Deputy Chair Doğan Ergün criticized the police attack and said the party's press release in front of the Red Crescent building was blocked.

"Before TİP's demonstration, there was a demonstration of Labor and Democracy Forces in Kadıköy. As far as we were able to determine, more than 110 of our friends were detained there," Ergün added.

TİP Istanbul Provincial Spokesperson Melis Akyürek emphasized that her fellow volunteers who were going to the earthquake zone were also detained and said: "We just tried to load a truck even when our party was under blockade. Half an hour ago our truck left incomplete because our comrades were detained.

All of the detainees were released in the morning. 

The Turkish Red Crescent sold tents to the social assistance organization AHBAP for 46 million liras on the 3rd day of major earthquakes that shook Turkey’s southeast, Murat Ağırel from the daily Cumhuriyet reported on Feb. 25. On Feb. 26, AHBAP confirmed the reporting, saying they bought 2050 tents from Kızılay. 

The government’s response to the major earthquakes that occurred since Feb. 6 has attracted severe criticism from the public; yet, the officials allow any demonstration related to quakes. Earlier on Feb. 26 before the TİP’s protest, Labor and Democracy Forces wanted to gather against the government’s quake response; yet, police attacked them as well and more than 100 people got detained. 

(English version by Can Bodrumlu)