Kurdish MP injured in police intervention in protest in SE Turkey

A lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was injured as a result of police intervention in a demonstration held in the southeastern Turkish province of Hakkari over the weekend to protest the 1999 arrest of the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Turkish Minute reported, citing the Mezopotamya news agency.

Abdullah Öcalan is the leader of the outlawed PKK, which has been waging an insurgency in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast for nearly four decades. He was captured by Turkish security forces in Nairobi in 1999 after being forced to leave Syria on Oct. 9, 1998.

He was subsequently sentenced to death; however, the sentence was commuted to aggravated life since Turkey abolished the death penalty as part of its bid to become a member of the European Union. He has been jailed on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara since 1999.

Protests across Turkey that aimed to draw attention to Öcalan’s years-long imprisonment were held on Sunday, on the 24th anniversary of Oct. 9, 1998, when a series of events that led to the PKK leader’s arrest began.

He was deported from Syria on Oct. 9, 1998. From this date on, Öcalan could not find a safe haven for himself and was arrested in Nairobi in February 1999 and brought to Turkey in a special operation conducted by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT).

According to Mezopotamya news website, HDP lawmakers Habip Eksik and Sait Dede were beaten by police who intervened in the “march of freedom” held in the Yüksekova district. Eksik’s leg was reportedly broken in the altercation.

Announcing the development on Twitter, HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar said, “This attack has been made on democratic politics. We won’t bow to oppression and tyranny and we will further expand the struggle for democracy and peace.”

Journalist Ruşen Takva also posted a video of Eksik that shows the MP on the ground after reportedly being beaten by the police.

Lawyer Bişar Abdi Alınak also tweeted photos of Eksik on the ground following police intervention in the protest, saying, “We once again saw the extent of brutality, fascism and hostility toward Kurds.”

Police also briefly detained 20 protestors, including HDP Yüksekova branch co-chairperson Şoreş Diri, Mezopotamya reporter Mazlum Engindeniz and JinNews reporter Rabia Önver.

Meanwhile, 42 demonstrators detained in İstanbul, including lawyers and journalists, and 55 other protestors detained in eastern Van province were also released later the same day, Mezopotamya said.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), together with its ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), have long portrayed the HDP as the political front of the outlawed PKK, which is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the EU and the US.

The party denies links to the PKK and says it is working to achieve a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish issue and is only coming under attack because of its strong opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 20-year rule.

The Kurdish issue, a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse, refers to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.

The political and legal assault on the HDP, which intensified after a truce between Kurdish militants and the AKP government broke down in 2015, grew even stronger after Erdoğan survived a coup attempt in July 2016 that was followed by a sweeping political crackdown.

The party currently faces a closure case on charges of “attempting to destroy the indivisibility between the state and the people.”

Hundreds of HDP politicians, including the party’s former co-chairs, are behind bars on terrorism charges, while most of the 65 HDP mayors elected in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast in 2019 have been replaced by government-appointed trustees.

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