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Protests in Turkey Stoke Ethnic Tensions

  • Dorian Jones

Thousands of people march to protest against the deadly attacks on Turkish troops, in Istanbul, Turkey, Sept. 8, 2015.

Thousands of people march to protest against the deadly attacks on Turkish troops, in Istanbul, Turkey, Sept. 8, 2015.

Nationalist protests erupted Wednesday across Turkey after Kurdish PKK rebels killed more than 30 members of Turkey's security forces in the days since Sunday. Many pro-Kurdish HDP offices were targeted in the violence. Turkey's political parties called for restraint, but there are fears Turkey is edging toward an ethnic conflict.

An angry mob, waving Turkish flags and calling for revenge, attacked the headquarters Tuesday night of the pro-Kurdish HDP in Ankara. Two floors were burned and party officials accused police of failing to intervene. Similar attacks on party offices occurred across the country. Local media also reported that elsewhere, Kurdish people and shops were attacked for being Kurdish.

Political scientist Cengiz Aktar of Istanbul’s Suleyman Sah University said Turkey has a long history of action against its minorities.

"All the past pogroms of the last hundred years were duly masterminded and organized by central authorities of the country," said Aktar. "The mobs yesterday against the HDP offices, this is far from being spontaneous; it happened one by one in very selected towns, and with youngsters, most probably being guided and encouraged."

AK Party accused

HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party and Turkish intelligence of being behind the violence. The far right National Action Party denied any involvement, placing blame on the youth section of the AK Party. The AKP denied the charge.

AK member of parliament Abdurrahim Boynukalın, the former head of its youth section, was involved in violent protests Monday against Turkey’s best selling Hurriyet newspaper, accusing it of misquoting Erdogan. Boynukalin called for the paper’s owner and the HDP to be thrown out of the country.

AK Party spokesman Numan Kurtulmus condemned on Wednesday the ethnic violence and those behind it. Observers say with the AK Party seeking to restore its majority in November’s general election, however, it likely will be targeting Turkish nationalist votes, along with its commitment to defeating the PKK.

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