Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party faces rising pressure after raid

President Tayyip Erdogan’s top deputies and allies have accused Turkey’s pro-Kurdish political party of militant ties and called for a ban after a police raid on its offices, prompting the HDP to denounce what it called a government plot.

Pressure has grown on the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the third-largest in parliament, since Sunday when police seized what they called “propaganda” material from an Istanbul district office and arrested its top two local officials.

State-owned Anadolu news agency said on Tuesday they were accused of a terrorist group membership.

Presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun published a video, apparently filmed during the raid, showing pictures on the walls of Abdullah Ocalan, jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). He said on Twitter the video offered “fresh proof” of the HDP’s ties to the militant group.

The HDP denies links to terrorism. A long-running crackdown on it picked up pace in 2019 when its support for the main opposition was crucial in defeating Erdogan’s ruling AK Party (AKP) in big cities in nationwide local elections.

Devlet Bahceli, head of the nationalist MHP which with the AKP forms a majority in parliament, slammed the HDP’s allies on Tuesday. He repeated a call for it to be closed over links to the PKK, which Turkey, the European Union, and the United States designate a terrorist group.

“Opposing the closure of the HDP means undermining justice and the fight against terrorism,” Bahceli told MHP deputies.

Pro-Kurdish parties have been banned in past decades, only to resurface under a new banner. Kurds make up some 20% of Turkey’s population of 83 million.

The crackdown on the HDP in recent years has included the arrests of thousands of party officials and members, while dozens of its mayors and lawmakers elected in the 2019 polls have been ousted from their seats.

HDP co-leader Pervin Buldan told her party’s deputies in parliament they were being targeted by a government plot.

“The government bloc, which cannot face us politically, has entered a war with the HDP using the judicial and security mechanism under its command,” she said.

“This raid was aimed as a provocation and a continuation of plots to draw our party out of democratic politics,” she added.

Buldan said her party had repeatedly said it views Ocalan, jailed since 1999, as the key to a peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem and that the government had long conducted talks with him during a peace process between 2013-2015.


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