Today two co-leaders of the pro-Kurdish opposition party in Turkey, People’s Democracy (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were detained. Reportedly at least nine other MPs have also been detained. In addition to the arrests Turkish security forces searched the homes of Demirtas and Yuksekdag, as well as the HDP party headquarters in Ankara. Demirtas was detained in Diyarbakir, the largest Kurdish-majority city located in Eastern Turkey. Hours after his arrest there was a car bomb explosion there, inuring 20. Yuksekdag was detained in Ankara.
The MPs are detained for alleged propaganda for and other links to the Kurdish PKK, which is also believed by the authorities to be behind the blast in Diyarbakir. HDP strongly denies any links with the PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the US and the EU. Instead, HDP believes this is an attempt by President Recep Tayyib Erdogan to push the party out of parliament and solidify his power.
Since the beginning of the arrests, social media like Twitter and Facebook, as well as messaging service WhatsApp have reportedly been blocked or experienced difficulties.
‘Very bad news from Turkey’
Turkey rapporteur at the European Parliament, Kati Piri, on Twitter called it : “Very bad news from Turkey. Again.”
The Party of European Socialists (PES) put out a statement saying it is “profoundly concerned about the detention of the leader of our associated member party HDP, Selahattin Demirtas, his colleague Figen Yüksekdag and a dozen other opposition MPs in Turkey.” The PES believes “the government in Turkey is abusing its power and is completely disregarding the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and freedom of speech”, and PES President Sergei Stanishev extended “our full solidarity” to the HDP and its leadership, adding: “We will not let our friends down and we are ready to raise our concern about these arbitrary detentions in every meeting of every European institution and international forum where the PES participate, until the situation changes”.
HDP is the 3rd largest party in Turkey, entering parliament for the first time last year with 59 seats in the 550-seat parliament. Turkish MPs normally enjoy immunity from prosecution, but the HDP MPs’ immunity was lifted earlier this year.
This is the latest episode in what has been a major crackdown in Turkey on dissent and anyone suspected of having links to the attempted coup in July.
Some 100.000 public sector employees were sacked over alleged links to the coup’s alleged mastermind, the US-based cleric Fettulah Gulen; thousands have been arrested.