Posted on August 11, 2016 by Editorial Staff in Politics
Turkish security forces near the Kurdish HDP party office. Photo: Dailysabah.com
ISTANBUL,— Turkish police detained 17 people as part of an operation aimed at Kurdish militants early on Thursday, conducting raids across Istanbul, including at the offices of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), state-run Anadolu Agency said.
Backed by a helicopter, counter-terror squads raided HDP offices in the central Istanbul district of Beyoglu at 3 a.m. (0000 GMT) as armoured vehicles and a water cannon vehicle were deployed nearby, the Dogan news agency reported.
The HDP, parliament’s third biggest party, wrote on its Istanbul Twitter account that police had broken open the door of its building and “illegally” searched the offices when no party official was present.
The raids, in 10 districts across Turkey’s largest city, targeted the “urban structure” of the PKK, Anadolu said.
It said the detainees were accused of “terror group membership”, recruitment and staging illegal protests.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has accused the pro-Kurdish HDP, of being the political wing of PKK militants who have waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkish Kurdistan, the Kurdish region in the country’s southeast. He wants to see them prosecuted.
Turkey’s parliament last May approved a highly controversial bill that would lift immunity for dozens of pro-Kurdish and other MPs and could see them evicted from parliament, sparking fresh domestic and international concern.
The raids came after bomb blasts in two Kurdish cities in southeast Turkey killed nine civilians and wounded dozens on Wednesday evening, according to security sources who said Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants were responsible.
A top PKK commander had warned at the weekend of fresh attacks, saying police “will not be able to live as comfortably as they did in the past in cities.”
“The war will from now on be conducted everywhere without distinguishing between mountains, valleys and cities,” the PKK’s Cemil Bayik said in an interview published by the Firat news agency, which is close to the group.
Wednesday’s bomb attacks, in the southeast’s largest Kurdish city Diyarbakir and in the Kiziltepe area of Mardin province, were condemned by the HDP in a statement on Wednesday evening.
“We repeat our call for the bloodshed and violence to be halted immediately and for steps to be taken to solve our problems by talking and negotiations,” it said.
HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas subsequently said Bayik’s statement was wrong and called for the PKK to boost its efforts for peace.
The HDP denies direct links with the PKK.
Since July 2015, Turkey initiated a controversial military campaign against the PKK in the country’s southeastern Kurdish region after Ankara ended a two-year ceasefire agreement. Since the beginning of the campaign, Ankara has imposed several round-the-clock curfews, preventing civilians from fleeing regions where the military operations are being conducted.
Observers say the crackdown has taken a heavy toll on the Kurdish civilian population and accuse Turkey of using collective punishment against the minority.
The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 78-million population. A large Turkey’s Kurdish community openly sympathise with PKK rebels.