Sometimes a picture is worth more than many analysis. Imagine a maximum security prison and a solitary confinement cell. Imagine a prison intended for the worst criminals and terrorists in the North-Western border, not far from Greece. As far as possible from the Kurdish South-East: this was the final destination where the HDP co-chair, the Democratic Peoples Party, Selahattin Demirtas was sent yesterday.
The co-president Figen Yuksekdag, had no better fate: she was also sent to a high security prison but located in Kocaeli, north east of Istanbul. This is how the Turkish government is treating democratically elected parliamentarians accused of terrorism charges, of which the prosecutor has shown no evidence.
And the nature of the alleged accomplice PKK can be debated. According to Turkey, the E.U. and the United States, it is a terrorist organization, for many others, it is a liberation movement. There is no forensic evidence, just political ones. The HDP, besides representing a broad slice of the Kurdish community, is first of all a left-wing party voted by millions of Turks who are tired of the fascistic nationalism of the leaders. Demirtas has been calling for a cease-fire for months, after the resumption of dialogue between the government and PKK.
Yet he is accused of terrorism, together with the other nine HDP officials arrested yesterday, after a wave of arrests in Friday against the congressmen of the party. It happened in Adana, a city on the border with Syria. Special units of the Turkish police, even supported by helicopters, raided the homes of the nine congressmen and took them away. Berivan Atalas, member of the HDP’s Foreign Affairs Committee, tell us on the phone that the systematic repression will not end here: “Most likely, there will be other arrests against our congressmen, officials and supporters. It is a long-term repression carried out using physical detention.”
“At the moment, eight congressmen are in jail, including the co-chairs. Only four of them were released, but remain under police surveillance. We are mobilizing not only all our people, the people of HDP in Turkey, but also supporters abroad. We will use every democratic means available, starting from demonstrations. Today [Saturday] there was a protest in Istanbul but the police attacked the demonstrators and some of them have been arrested, I don’t have the exact number.”
The HDP is restarting its activities in their offices: yesterday, the central committee, together with the cousin Party DBP, held a meeting to organize a sit-in in Diyarbakir. “We expect a significant mobilization of all popular democratic movements in Turkey which at this time are supporting us with statements and the promise of more events,” concludes Atalas. “Instead of parties like the CHP, which only expressed its solidarity in words.”
The journalists of the Cumhuriyet newspaper are also accused of terrorism. After the preventive detentions last week, yesterday nine journalists were formally arrested. Among them is the director Murat Sabuncu. The prosecution — again — is accusing them of committing crimes in favor of two terrorist organizations, Imam Gulen’s Hizmet and the PKK, as if the two groups were ideologically similar.
A maniacal precision that tramples on the facts: through its news agency Amaq, the Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack in Diyarbakir on Friday, a car bomb which killed 11 people, a few hours after the mass arrests against HDP. Ankara had immediately accused the PKK of being responsible, justifying the claim with the threat of vengeance promised by the Workers’ Party after the detention of the 13 congressmen.
But ISIS has already taken responsibility for the attack. This is no surprise: is not the first time that the Islamic State massacres Turkey and targets the Kurdish community. The car bomb also blew up a few days after the audio message of “Caliph” al-Baghdadi who invited his men — many active in cells in the Turkish territory known to security forces — to invade the country in revenge for its participation in the battle of Mosul.
It does not matter, the government’s narrative insists the guilty organization is the PKK. This was reiterated yesterday by the governor of Diyarbakir, citing intercepted messages in the hands of investigators. It is an uphill battle to shape the enemy to fit Sultan Erdogan’s strategy and his policy to become a regional power: the PKK is the perfect opponent because it threatens the myth of the great Turkish nation and the president’s ambitions of a new Ottoman Empire.
He does it to the South-East, as well as in northern Syria and Iraq. In short, it is the perfect enemy because it moves across the Middle East, to prevent the political participation of the Kurdish minority in Turkey and finally build the buffer zones in Iraq and Syria that will help to break up the neighbors.
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