Turkish police use violence against pro-Kurdish protesters and MPs

Protesters including lawmakers from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were attacked by police in southeastern Turkey while demonstrating against the recent replacement of three Kurdish mayors with state officials on Wednesday.

Turkey’s Interior Ministry said early on Monday that mayors of southeastern Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van provinces were suspended from their duties over suspected terror links.

The move ordered by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party (AKP) received harsh criticism from both local and international circles as more than 400 people were detained as part of the same terror investigation.

A number of protests were staged against the dismissal of Kurdish mayors in several different provinces across Turkey since Monday and almost all of them ended with violent police intervention.

As the demonstrations continued on Wednesday in the southeastern Diyarbakir and Van provinces, Turkish police officers used water cannons and batons to disperse protesting groups that involved a number of HDP lawmakers.

A group of protesters in Diyarbakir who wanted to march towards the town hall and then make a statement were met with police resistance.

The group that included ousted Diyarbakir mayor Selcuk Mizrakli, a number of other HDP members and MPs staged a sit-in protest until they were allowed by the police to make a press statement.

Ridvan Turan, HDP’s lawmaker from Mersin read the statement.

“What are trustees [state-appointed officials that replace mayors]? The political power and the Interior Ministry say that Kurdish people are not allowed to rule themselves and thus they appoint officials to rule them. Trustees are a rejection of democracy, fundamental human rights and freedoms and people’s right to rule themselves,” Turan said.

“That’s why our resistance against the trustees will continue. Those who disregard Kurds’ language, culture, and existence are now disregarding our political will. And we, too, disregard those who disregard our political will,” Turan stated the party’s position.

He added that the ruling AKP has “no democratic legitimacy” now.

Underlining that they do not accept the appointment of trustees as mayors, HDP further vowed: “Our resistance and protests will continue. The trustees will leave [the mayors’ offices]. We will send the fascist coalition of AKP-MHP away in a litter box.”

The HDP referred in the statement to the ruling AKP’s alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) that was formed early in 2018.

Speaking to the press also on Wednesday, ousted mayor Mizrakli outlined that they will voice their democratic objection to the issue with every tool and way that they can get hold of.

Mizrakli also called on every opposition party in Turkey to support them in their effort.

Following the statement of HDP, the protesters were divided into two groups and began marching in two separate routes, according to a report by the T24 news portal on Wednesday.

As police tried to disperse both groups by using water cannon vehicles (TOMA), the pro-Kurdish HDP’s Diyarbakir MP Remziye Tosun felt faint due to the harsh intervention. Police officers detained more than 15 protesters while reportedly beating them in the process of detention.

T24 also reported that journalists who were covering the protests in Diyarbakir, Lezgin Akdeniz, Beritan Canozer and Ali Kocer were pushed and battered down by police officers who also threatened them with detention.

Another incident of police violence against pro-Kurdish protesters took place in Van, where officers attacked demonstrators after they cornered them in a cafe.

Video footage taken inside the cafe shows the protesters being kicked by police, with one officer also hitting a citizen repeatedly by using a baton and a helmet. The police officer is then seen dragging the battered citizen out of the cafe.

Mustafa Yeneroglu, the ruling AKP’s lawmaker from Istanbul, shared the footage on his official Twitter account, describing the police intervention as “horrific.”

“We will do what is necessary to immediately dismiss and prosecute those who deem this cruelty against our citizens proper,” Yeneroglu promised.

Pro-Kurdish HDP MP Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu also shared the footage on social media, saying shame on those who see this kind of behavior fit to the citizens in southeastern Van.

“If you do not put these state officials [police officers] on trial, you can never be able to explain anything [about this incident] to anyone in Turkey or around the world!” the lawmaker held forth in a tweet.

In his second statement about the issue, later on, Gergerlioglu indicated that the citizen who was beaten by the police officer in Van was mentally disabled and shared his health reports.

“What kind of cruelty is this? What can’t a [kind of] person who can do this to a mentally-disabled do to normal people?” the MP questioned.”

“Here is the tyranny of the AKP [government]. Surely, you will answer for this,” HDP lawmaker from Van, Muazzez Orhan,  said, also sharing the footage on her Twitter account on Wednesday.

Suspension of mayors seriously risk damaging Turkey’s democracy – EU

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