Turkey pro-Kurdish party faces ‘campaign of lynching’

Friday 04/09/2015
Who’s to blame?

ANKARA - The leader of Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party warned on Wednesday the country was being dragged into a civil war after a night of nationalist-tinged "lynching" that left several of its offices in flames.

Commentators warned Turkey risks being plunged into a protracted internal conflict, as the government keeps up a huge military operation against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants and the rebels hit back with daily attacks against the security forces.

But the violence Tuesday night spilt over into the streets, as angry nationalist mobs who accuse the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) of collaborating with the PKK attacked its offices in several cities.

The tensions have spiked after 29 soldiers and police were killed in two separate attacks in the country's east on Sunday and Tuesday, the deadliest strikes in the current phase of the conflict.

Late Tuesday, a HDP office in the capital Ankara was attacked and torched while another branch in the southern city of Alanya was also set on fire.

A party official said that scores of attacks across the country had caused "major damage".

HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas denounced what he described as two nights of "lynching" which he said was supported by the government.

"In the last two days more than 400 attacks (on HDP) property have been carried out. We are facing a campaign of lynching."

He said that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had ordered a campaign to target the HDP and said they should be brought to justice.

"It is not us (the HDP) who has taken the decision to start this war and intensify it... the decision has been taken by the president and the prime minister," he said in televised comments.

"They want to create a civil war and the last two days have been rehearsals for this," he said.

The Turkish army has intensified its relentless one and a half month campaign against the PKK after the latest attacks, sending 150 special forces troops across the border into its stronghold of northern Iraq in hot pursuit of the rebels.

The state-run Anatolia news agency said 100 suspected militants had been killed in combined land and air operations.

Demirtas was meanwhile to head later Wednesday to the town of Cizre in southeast Turkey which has been under curfew for almost a week as the army presses a military operation that the HDP says has cost several civilian lives.

The violence has upended a 2013 ceasefire aimed at allowing a final peace deal to end the PKK's three-decade insurgency, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The PKK initially took up arms in 1984 with the aim of establishing an independent state for Turkey's Kurdish minority, although lately the demands have focused on greater autonomy and rights.

With tensions soaring, Davutoglu denounced Tuesday night's violence and appealed for calm.

"The objective of terrorism is to undermine our unshakeable, brotherly ties. Attacking the press and the property of political parties is unacceptable," he wrote on Twitter.

The headquarters of the Hurriyet newspaper in Istanbul was also attacked for the second time since Sunday by pro-government demonstrators who accused the paper of misquoting Erdogan.

The HDP, which denies being a front for the PKK more than 13 percent of the vote in the June 7 election, a strong performance that effectively prevented the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) from retaining its overall majority.

After coalition talks failed, Turkey is due to vote again on November 1 in snap elections called by Erdogan, who saw his dream of creating a presidential system turned to dust in the last election.

Commentators have expressed alarm that the current situation increasingly resembles the worst days of the PKK's insurgency in the 1990s when attacks on this scale were commonplace.

"It is chaos and the one thing to blame is Erdogan's insistence on wanting to create a presidential system," said prominent pro-opposition commentator Cengiz Aktar, professor at Istanbul's Suleyman Shah university.

"If this continues Turkey will end up in a civil war... The danger is that there is no mediator," he said.