Turkey arrests over 60 Kurdish politicians on eve of elections

President Erdogan frequently targets the pro-Kurdish HDP and the Turkish opposition as "terror collaborators."
author_image Rawa Barwari

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish police on Saturday conducted raids on 127 homes in Istanbul and arrested at least 53 people, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) candidates for the city council, as the country goes to ballot boxes for nationwide local elections in less than 24 hours.

Elsewhere in the southern Sanliurfa province, police arrested 11 others campaigning for the elections, the HDP said in a statement to the public, adding the reason for arrests was not specified yet.

In the cities of Adana, Van, and Igdir, authorities reprimanded 31 party members to prisons on “terrorism-related” charges.

The current wave of now a years-long crackdown on the Kurdish opposition came days after Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu promised a large-scale operation targeting the HDP.

The party that with the support of other Kurdistani parties have fielded candidates in major Kurdish population centers where it traditionally wins most elections.

But it did not do so in Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir where the ratio of an average of above 10 percent votes it gets can swing the results in favor of the Turkish opposition against the right-wing coalition led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In the HDP statement, the party’s spokesperson Ayse Acar Basaran said since they started the election campaign this year, Turkish authorities arrested 713 party members, including polling clerks.

Of those, 107 remain in detention, she said.

The opposition led by the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) and composed of the ultra-nationalist IYI party as well as the Islamist Felicity Party that has formed a loose, unofficial alliance with the HDP did not comment on the crackdown on the Kurdish party.

Erdogan accuses the opposition of collaborating with “terrorists” who want to found an independent Kurdistan.

The total number of Kurdish party members in Turkish prisons exceeds 7,000, among them former party leaders Selahattin Demirtas, Figen Yuksekdag, a dozen lawmakers, and over 60 mayors.

HDP’s Basaran said Erdogan was giving orders to the security forces and judiciary.

“The difference between today and tomorrow is that this fascist bloc will be dissolved,” she said, referring to Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its junior partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany