Repression targeting naysayers in referendum surges ahead of voting day

Turkish government’s repressions and oppression targeting possible naysayers in upcoming referendum on constitutional change over executive presidency on April 16 have surged as the date of critical voting is approaching.

The İstanbul Governor’s Office on Friday has denied permission to a public rally scheduled to be held by the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP). Citing that “there are not enough police officers to maintain security” during the planned rally, the governor’s office stated that another public meeting was scheduled by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) on the very same day.

Meanwhile, a group of 15 to 20 people attacked a campaign stand of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in the Hendek district of Sakarya province on Friday. According to CNNTürk report, the group beat three members of the CHP youth branch who were campaigning for a “no” vote ahead of an April 16 referendum. The police detained three people in connection to the incident.

Last month, ruling AKP officials from İstanbul’s Esenler district and workers from the AKP-run Esenler Municipality attacked members of the CHP who were campaigning for the referendum. In a similar incident in February, two members of the CHP were attacked by a father and son during a “no” campaign in the western province of İzmir. In January, three people from the CHP youth branch in Sakarya’s Serdivan district were battered by an angry mob that chanted “La Ilaha Illallah,” over banners they hung inside a shopping mall. M.D., a member of the CHP youth branch, was shot in January in İstanbul while campaigning against the constitutional amendments.

On March 26, Sinan Ogan, a politician who was previously expelled from the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), was attacked in Yozgat province while campaigning to persuade people to vote “no” in the critical referendum. On March 5, Ogan was also attacked at a private university when he was making a speech against the proposed constitutional amendment package.

Furthermore, Birgün daily reported on Friday that two armed men attacked pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party’s (HDP) vehicle in Batman province as a driver, Celal İlgen, was driving towards a nearby village earlier this week. Driver İlgen said a commercial car blocked his way while he was driving. Two armed men who got out of the car approached İlgen forcefully by breaking the car window and began punching him and hitting him with the stock of the weapons. İlgen drove away swiftly as aggressors tried pointing the guns at him, according to reports.

HDP’s district co-chair İkram İlgi has said about the attack that “This is not a random attack. Since AKP knows that it has started to lose in Batman and across Turkey, it has begun to attack HDP. We condemn this attack. If the perpetrators are not revealed, AKP, the police, and the government will be the responsible parties. These kinds of attacks must be prevented.”

Also, according to a top official from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), there are intimidation attempts against campaigners for “no vote” ahead of upcoming referendum in Turkey. Michael Georg Link, the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, said the OSCE will release its interim report on the referendum process this weekend, but the “main problem is the campaigning process,” Deutsche Welle reported on Wednesday.

Noting that the referendum is “handled one-sidedly in the media,” Link also said there are “restrictions in the issues, such as news and organizing demonstrations,” due to the ongoing state of emergency, which was declared after the July 15, 2016 military coup attempt.

“As the OSCE, we are only able to observe the referendum process inside Turkey. We don’t have a team to observe voting among expats in Germany, Austria or Sweden. This is an issue that we need to handle in the future as the OSCE,” Link added.

Turkey will hold a referendum on April 16 on a constitutional change that will expand powers of Turkey’s already autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and bring an executive presidency to Turkey. The ruling AKP, backed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), pushed through the legislation that President Erdoğan says will bring the strong leadership needed to prevent a return of the fragile coalition governments of the past.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) fear the reform will fuel authoritarianism. (SCF with & April 7, 2017



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