Turkish police violence against Kurdish prisoners' mothers leads to uproar

Kurdish visual artist Ahmet Gunestekin questioned whether equal citizenship existed in Turkey, joining a barrage of condemnations.
author_image Rawa Barwari

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish police officers on Friday and Saturday used harassment and violence against Kurdish mothers who were protesting in solidarity with their political prisoner children in Kocaeli and the Kurdish Mardin province.

Footage from a location near Gebze Women’s Prison in Turkey’s Kocaeli province showed a police officer shouting at several women, and telling them to “walk” as he and others drove them away while dogs barked.

“You’ve got energy. Right? So, walk,” the officer can be heard shouting at the elderly women.

The Turkish police’s maltreatment of elderly Kurdish women in the video the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) shared on Saturday received backlash from social media users, journalists, and politicians.

“What’s your beef with mothers, women, and particularly Kurdish mothers who are weeping,” Sezgin Tanrikulu, a lawmaker for the opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP), asked the Turkish Justice Ministry which regulates and oversees the prison system across Turkey.

“This police harassment and batons is the face of the oppressive government,” Tanrikulu, himself a Kurd and prominent human rights lawyer, wrote on Twitter.

He vowed to follow the case with the authorities.

Hundreds of Kurdish political prisoners led by the formerly jailed HDP lawmaker Leyla Guven are on a hunger strike to pressure President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s administration to lift what they call a policy of isolation on the imprisoned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) founder Abdullah Ocalan.

HDP called the police treatment “a picture of lawlessness and tyranny.”

Another CHP MP, Gursel Tekin, also a Kurd, called it “oppression with a heavy price.”

A world-renowned Kurdish visual artist, Ahmet Gunestekin, questioned whether equal citizenship existed in Turkey in a tweet commenting on the video.

The Kocaeli governorate issued an online statement after thousands of reactions and hashtags, saying there was “intelligence that provocative incidents would occur.”

In the lengthy statement, it said an investigation was launched into the “security members who overrode their mandate during the intervention.”

HDP pointed out that there was “no apologies, no sign of shame, no resignations, and no dismissals.”

In less than 24 hours, Turkish police attacked another protest in the Kurdish Mardin province’s Kiziltepe district.

Footage from the scene showed police using water cannons to disperse a crowd as officers clamp down on several protestors, and drag a white-veiled mother.

Police arrested her, identified as Hevlet Oncu, along with six others, the local Mezopotamya agency said.

As of last year, there are over 50,000 political prisoners in Turkish jails, according to HDP figures.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany