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Turkish Police Arrest 31 Suspected Kurdish Separatists

Turkish Police Arrest 31 Suspected Kurdish Separatists
Turkish Police Arrest 31 Suspected Kurdish Separatists

Media reports say Turkish police have raided the homes of suspected Kurdish separatists around the country, arresting 31 people, including eight mayors.
The reports say police arrested the suspects early Thursday in simultaneous raids in 11 Turkish provinces. The arrests cast doubt on government's efforts to end fighting with the PKK.

Across Turkey's predominately Kurdish southeast, security forces carried out dawn raids on members of the recently banned pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, or DTP.

Several local mayors were among those detained. The arrests are part of an ongoing investigation by state prosecutors into suspected links between DTP party members and the Kurdish rebel group the Kurdistan Workers Party , the PKK.

Osman Baydemir, a leading DTP member and mayor of Diyarbakir, the main city in southeast Turkey, condemned the arrests.

He says, we have a message to give to this government and state: don't categorize us as hawks and doves. We, all the mayors and members of parliament who have not been taken to custody will be outside the court tomorrow. Either you take us in, too, or you release our friends. He added that a day will come when the government will find no one to shake hands with."

Earlier this month the DTP was banned by the constitutional court for having links to PKK rebels.

The ban on the DTP sparked protests across southeast Turkey.

Political columnist Nuray Mert warns the arrests will add to growing ethnic tensions in Turkey.

"Arrests apparently did not mean to be provocation but at the end of the day it provokes the party," said Mert. "Another wave of harsh discourse will come out, and it will turn out to be a vicious cycle of provocations of each other."

Hopes had been growing that the violence would ease following the announcement by Ahmet Turk, the leader of the banned DTP, that they would join the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), in order to keep their parliamentary seats.

But those hopes were dashed this week when a state prosecutor opened an inquiry against Turk over comments that jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan had sent word through his lawyers advising the party's legislators to remain in parliament despite the court ban.

More than 50 Kurdish activists are still being held after similar raids eight months ago - and all have been charged with membership in the PKK.

Kurds, who are estimated to make up about 20 percent of Turkey's population of more than 70 million people, were for decades forbidden to use their language and many have long complained of discrimination. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip  Erdogan had initiated a program to improve Kurdish rights, but with the DTP the only Kurdish party represented in parliament now banned, Mr. Erdogan has no party to negotiate with for a peace plan.

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