Turkey’s opposition parties and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the joint presidential candidate of an opposition bloc of six parties, have remained silent on the detention of more than 100 Kurds despite international rights groups’ calls for the release of the detainees.
On Tuesday Turkish authorities detained 126 Kurdish activists, journalists and lawyers in raids conducted just three weeks before a tight election that could extend President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s two-decade rule.
International media freedom and human rights organizations the same day called on Turkish authorities to stop their “systematic harassment and intimidation of Kurdish journalists, media workers and political party officials,” urging the release of the detainees.
Despite calls from the international community, opposition bloc parties and Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and one of two main contenders in Turkey’s presidential election on May 14, with the other the incumbent president, Erdoğan, had not reacted as of Wednesday to the crackdown on Kurds.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the second-largest opposition party in parliament, is widely seen as a kingmaker in the tight presidential race.
The HDP said last month it would not field a presidential candidate in the May 14 elections, giving tacit support to Erdoğan’s main rival, Kılıçdaroğlu.
President Erdoğan has often accused the HDP of alleged links to the PKK, which the party denies.
According to the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya news agency (MA), police officers raided the homes of journalists from the agency, the Yeni Yaşam daily and Xwebûn, the only Kurdish-language newspaper distributed within Turkey; lawyers from the Association of Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD) and the Diyarbakır Bar Association; politicians from the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP); and activists from Turkey’s oldest human rights group, the Human Rights Association (İHD), early on Tuesday morning.
The charges against those in custody are still unknown due to a gag order on the investigation and a 24-hour restriction on the detainees’ access to lawyers, according to the Diyarbakır Bar Association.
State media TRT reported that police had detained people suspected of financing the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or attracting new members to the group.
Deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, the PKK has been waging a decades-long war against the state for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority.
The operation also involved people who transferred money to the PKK from municipalities held by the HDP, according to TRT.