On Tuesday, Turkish police detained 110 individuals across 21 provinces, including politicians, lawyers, and journalists, for their alleged connections to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group. The operation was centred in Diyarbakir, the largest city in predominantly Kurdish southeast Turkey, and came less than three weeks before the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
This election represents the most significant challenge President Tayyip Erdogan and his AK Party have faced since they first assumed power in 2002. Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Tayip Temel accused the ruling party of conducting the arrests out of fear of losing power, stating on Twitter that “on the eve of the election, they have resorted to detention operations again”.
Why Turkish police have arrested these individuals now
Among those detained were high-ranking members of the HDP, as well as journalists, artists, and lawyers. The prosecutor’s office in Diyarbakir declined to comment on the matter, while a security source revealed that police had carried out simultaneous raids on 186 addresses. Arrest warrants were issued for 216 individuals suspected of providing financial support, recruiting, and spreading propaganda for the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey and several Western countries.
Emma Sinclair-Webb, Associate Director of Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia, criticised the arrests as an “abuse of powers and intimidation tactic before election”. The HDP, the third-largest party in parliament, denies accusations of PKK connections and faces a potential ban in a constitutional court case. The party’s parliamentary candidates are running under the Green Left Party’s umbrella.
Despite not being part of the main opposition alliance, the HDP is staunchly opposed to Erdogan. In recent years, thousands of its members, lawmakers, and mayors have been jailed or stripped of their positions due to alleged PKK ties. The conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state has claimed more than 40,000 lives since 1984, with the focus of the fighting now shifting to northern Iraq.
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