By Hamdi Firat Buyuk
After 13 Turks were allegedly killed by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, Turkish authorities said they had detained 718 people, including city and district administrators from the country’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, HDP.
The Interior Ministry said on February 15 in a written statement: “718 people including the presidents of HDP district and city branches were detained as part of operations against the PKK’s operations in the country. Detentions are still underway.”
The 13 killed Turks include members of the military and police as well as civilians who were kidnapped and later taken to a PKK camp in northern Iraq.
“Some of them had been held for five years and others for six. We tried hard to save them,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a day after Defence Minister Hulusi Akar announced their deaths at the hands of the PKK.
Turkey organised a massive military operation last week with two mountain commando battalions as well as special force units in northern Iraq’s Gara region, which the PKK uses to host camps.
But the HDP on Sunday insisted that the 13 people were killed in Turkish airstrikes on PKK camps – not by the PKK.
“Turkey bombed the [PKK’s] prison camps and stopped when they realised they [the 13 prisoners] were dead,” Huda Kaya, an HDP MP said on Sunday. Turkish authorities rejected the claims.
The US on Sunday said it condemned the killings if reports that the PKK was responsible were confirmed. However, President Erdogan accused the US of supporting the PKK, calling its condemnation “a joke.”
The Turkish government has intensified pressure on the pro-Kurdish HDP party and other Kurdish groups in the last few years.
Since the last local elections in March 2019, it has suspended 59 of the 65 HDP mayors in eastern Turkey and put dozens of HDP MPs in prison on terrorism charges.
Officials routinely equate the PKK and the HDP, and accuse the HDP of not drawing a line between itself and the PKK “terrorist organisation”.
Experts say President Erdogan is implementing a divide-and-rule strategy against Kurdish groups, fearing Kurds might join forces with a united opposition to his regime.