Turkish forces stop pro-Kurdish MPs on protest march to Cizre

Posted on September 10, 2015

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MPs say they want to bring attention to security and health conditions in town that has been under curfew since last week

by Alex JS, editing by Adam MS

Pro-Kurdish politicians, including cabinet ministers, attempting to march to Cizre in south-east Turkey to protest against a week-long military curfew in the town have been blocked by security forces.

The leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP), Selhattin Demirtaş, and other members of the organisation, started a 55-mile march towards Cizre on Wednesday after security forces halted a previous attempt to reach the town by convoy.

On Thursday they staged a sit-down protest on a hillside near the border with Syria and Iraq after soldiers with riot shields blocked their path.

There has been a surge in violence between Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) militants and Turkish security forces since a ceasefire collapsed in July, shattering a peace process launched in 2012.

Demirtaş and the HDP have accused the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and the ruling AK party of whipping up nationalist sentiment before elections in November, while enforcing a security crackdown in the mainly Kurdish south-east.

HDP offices have been targeted and some set ablaze in a series of attacks across the country by nationalist crowds this week.

Embedded image permalinkCizre has been under curfew since last week because of fighting with PKK militants. HDP politicians say they want to bring attention to what they describe as dire security and health conditions in the town.

“The government should not be allowed to get away with what is being done today in Cizre,” Demirtaş said in a telephone interview broadcast by IMC TV, promising to “carry Cizre’s voice to the world”.

He was accompanied by Turkey’s EU minister, Ali Haydar Konca, and development minister, Müslüm Doğan, both from the HDP, and members of an interim cabinet steering the country towards a snap parliamentary election on 1 November.

Turkey’s interior minister said security forces would continue to block the march.

“We will not allow them [the delegation] to go to Cizre,” Selami Altinok told reporters in Ankara. “It is our duty to protect them.”

Anltinok said between 30 and 32 members of the PKK had been killed by armed forces in the Cizre military operation, and that one civilian had died in clashes. The HDP, however, says 21 civilians, including children, have been killed.

On social media there have been numerous images surface showing the brutality of the attack to civilians including women and children, however, there can’t be positive confirmation even from local media whether or not those images are real.

Prosecutors in Diyarbakır, the region’s largest city, launched investigations into Demirtaş on Wednesday on charges of terrorist propaganda, inciting crime and insulting the Turkish state and president. A request was made to lift the immunity from prosecution he has as an MP, they said.

Erdoğan has also stepped up the pressure on the HDP, repeating accusations that the party was linked to the PKK, which Turkey, the EU and US designate a terrorist group.

“If you take the side of terror you will run the risk of paying the price for that,” he told a news conference. “This political movement has begun to present a completely illegal appearance.”

Turkish courts have in the past closed down pro-Kurdish parties on charges of links to the PKK.

Demirtaş said the legal investigation was politically motivated and that thousands of similar inquiries had been launched against pro-Kurdish politicians in the past.

“This is part of the campaign to undermine the HDP on the order of the president,” he said. “Like the president says, we are ready to pay the price. Our lives are not more valuable than the freedom struggle of our people.”

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