Sixteen Kurdish seasonal farm laborers were attacked on September 4 by a farm owner and a group of villagers in Turkey’s northwestern province of Sakarya in an incident that appears to have been caused by anti-Kurdish sentiment, Turkish media reported.
The laborers came from the southeastern city of Mardin during the summer holidays to work in the hazelnut orchards. They were picking hazelnuts when the owner of the farm verbally and physically assaulted them. Images of the attack were widely circulated on social media.
Speaking to the Mesopotamia news agency Barış Demir, one of the laborers who was attacked, said: “We went to the farm in the morning. The owner insulted us, calling us a ‘pack of dogs.’ Then we left. [The owner] then threatened us, saying: ‘You think this is your hometown? This [land] belongs to us.’ Afterwards eight people attacked us with clubs.”
According to the workers, the assailants also said, “The gendarmerie, police and state are all behind us!” The laborers were prevented from contacting the gendarmerie and threatened with axes.
In a statement on the incident, the Sakarya Governor’s Office said the claims on social media and by some news agencies were not true and that this was not a direct attack on the Kurdish laborers, “Our investigations into the matter … have determined that there was a brawl between farmers, and one of them ran over another farmer. Three laborers were injured collaterally, … and two of the injured women were from Mardin. … The incident is now being investigated by the chief public prosecutor’s office.”
The statement also noted that there were no official complaints made to the gendarmerie or the police. The chief public prosecutor’s office has detained two people who were involved in the attack and said they were working on detaining the other suspects.
Hamdin Demir, one of the victims, said: “The statement by the Sakarya Governor’s Office is not true. It was not a brawl between farmers, and we have filed official complaints. We have hospital reports confirming the assault. This was not a random attack; it was done because we are Kurds.”
Hate crimes against Kurds have increased in Turkey in the recent past. Last October, another Kurdish seasonal farm worker, Şirin Tosun (19) was shot dead in Sakarya for speaking to his friends in Kurdish.
In another hate crime father and son Kadir Sakçı (43) and Burhan Sakçı (16) were attacked by a mob, again in Sakarya, for speaking in Kurdish to each other. Kadir Sakçı died as a result of his injuries and Burhan was hospitalized for an extended period of time.
Speaking at a protest, human rights activist and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu said such racist attacks do not take place in only in Sakarya. “Kurdish workers have been attacked in other cities such as Yozgat and Balıkesir. The government’s policies have fueled this situation, and unless Kurds stand up for Turks and Turks stand up for Kurds, we cannot have peace,” he said.