Pro-Kurdish MP claims sexual harassment by police during protest

Saliha Aydeniz, a deputy for the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), has claimed that she was sexually harassed by a Turkish police officer during a protest, according to T24 news portal’s report on Sunday.

Aydeniz and HDP MP Musa Farisogulları attended a protest by Kurdish families who are trying to draw attention to their children who are participating in hunger strikes in prison.

Leyla Guven, a lawmaker of the pro-Kurdish HDP, started what she calls “a partial and indefinite hunger strike” on November 7, 2018, demanding that the isolation imposed on Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), by the Turkish government be lifted.

Participation in the strike has spread among thousands of Kurdish prisoners, activists, and politicians in Turkey and across the world, with some of them turning the protest into a ‘death fast’ (drinking only water with sugar and salt).

So far, seven Kurdish inmates have committed suicide and 15 more began a ‘death fast’ almost a week ago.

According to the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya News Agency’s (MA) report on Sunday, police did not allow the mothers of the prisoners to give a press statement regarding the situation of their children from a park in Diyarbakir’s Baglar district.

The mothers then decided to hold a sit-in protest but were only allowed to do so for half an hour after HDP deputies Aydeniz and Farisogulları discussed the situation with the police officers.

Police officers reportedly battered and detained seven protesters, including five mothers, before HDP deputies intervened the situation.

After being surrounded by a police blockade during the protest, MP Aydeniz lashed out, claiming that she was sexually harassed by a police officer, who was then taken away by his chief.

“If you don’t like to be touched, then don’t stand so near to the [protesting] group,” MA quoted the police chief as saying to Aydeniz.

The mothers ended the sit-in protest after the allocated half hour.

Police violence against Kurdish mothers of prisoners who are on hunger strikes has become common practice, with several of them being manhandled, harassed and detained due to their attempts to stage sit-in protests in solidarity with their children.

Critics claim that Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu paved the way for violent interventions by promising to stop HDP lawmakers who attempt to show any kind of support to Guven and other hunger strikers.

Ocalan has been held mostly in solitary confinement in Imrali, an island prison in the Marmara Sea, since his arrest in 1999. He has not been allowed to see his lawyers since 2011, his family members since 2014, and HDP lawmakers since April 2015.

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