Turkish police on Sept. 25 detained some 20 members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), including the co-mayor of the eastern province of Kars, over 2014 violent protests against the siege by ISIS of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane.
Detention warrants were issued for a total of 82 people in seven provinces as part of an investigation carried out by Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman, who recently drew ire for visiting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the presidential palace after his wedding.
Kars Co-Mayor Ayhan Bilgen, former deputies Sırrı Süreyya Önder, Ayla Akat Ata, Nazmi Gür, Emine Ayna, Beyza Üstün and Altan Tan, former party spokesperson Günay Kubilay and HDP Central Executive Board (MYK) member Alp Altınörs are among those detained early in the morning.
Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) member from the HDP, Ali Ürküt, was also detained.
Footage showed dozens of police officers detaining Bilgen and putting him in an armored vehicle, as people chanted, “This city is proud of you.”
Protesters flooded streets in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast in early October 2014, outraged over the Turkish government’s inaction in protecting Syrian Kurds as ISIS besieged Kobane, just across the Syrian border. The protests led to the deaths of 37 people, as members of Turkish Hizbullah also took to the streets. Ankara accuses the HDP of inciting violence.
The detentions on Sept. 25 are the latest in the government’s crackdown on the HDP. The party is often accused of having links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its former co-chairs, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, have been imprisoned for nearly four years.
In a statement on Sept. 25, prosecutors in Ankara said arrest warrants were issued over “several calls made to invite the public to the streets and carry out terror acts.”
“The Ankara Prosecutor’s Terror Crimes Investigation Bureau has launched an investigation on the PKK terrorist organisation and its so-called executives, as well as certain political party executives and members… and, at the current stage, ordered the detention of 82 suspects,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Those sought were in the MYK of the party at the time of the protests.
Gov’t: We’ll never forget Kobane protests
Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank commented on the detentions, saying that the government will never forget the Kobane protests.
According to Varank, the detentions are the judiciary’s judgement.
“Some people are trying to make a fuss over the detentions being six years after the protests,” Varank said.
“If they think that we’ll forget these incidents that killed many civilians, they’re wrong. We’ll never forget that treason. We’ve eliminated all the traps set against us via putting forward a great struggle,” he added.
The HDP released a statement on the issue, saying that it can’t be silenced.
In its statement, the party referred to prosecutor Kocaman’s visit to Erdoğan in the presidential palace, saying that the decision to launch “a revenge operation” against the HDP was adopted there.
“The HDP will never bow down,” it said, adding that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) seek to eliminate the opposition as they lose votes.
HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar said that the judiciary has become a tool of the government.
“They attack as they lose, they lose as they attack,” Sancar said.
These detentions are a gift to the palace: CHP MP Tanrıkulu
The detentions were slammed by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), with lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu branding them as “a gift to the presidential palace.”
“The reason for their detention is Oct. 6-8, 2014 Kobane protests. Six years have passed, they were probed, have testified and were tried. These detentions are a wedding gift to the presidential palace,” Tanrıkulu said, referring to Kocaman’s visit to Erdoğan.
CHP Istanbul deputy Gürsel Tekin also slammed the detentions, saying that they are politically motivated.
He also said that the fact that the Constitutional Court ruled for a right violation in 2017 with regards to Bilgen’s arrest is a proof that his detention is political.
“Trying to criminalise the HDP and the democratic political arena is a major harm done to Turkey. The presidential palace, which expects to benefit from polarization via raising the tensions in the society, is destroying the peace and welfare of 83 million,” Tekin tweeted.
Bilgen was previously also arrested on the same accusations regarding Kobane protests and remained behind bars for 8.5 months. He then took the case to the Constitutional Court, saying that he was accused of being in a MYK meeting that he hadn’t attended. The court ruled in favor of Bilgen and ruled for a rights violation.
Another CHP deputy, Tuncay Özkan, also slammed the detentions, saying that the government is oppressive.
DEVA MP slams detentions
A lawmaker from the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) said that it would be absurd to think that the detentions are based on the law.
Mustafa Yeneroğlu, a former AKP deputy, noted that “a state must be ruled with justice.”
“An understanding of politics that instrumentalizes the judiciary would make terrorist groups happy as it crushes the sense of justice,” he said.