In a political climate where any criticism of the government is equated with terrorism, incessant detentions and arrests have become routinized means of intimidating the democratic society and politics in Turkey. As the stronghold of the HDP and political center of Kurdish region in Turkey, Diyarbakir is the city that is most targeted by government repression.
Last month, on May 22nd, the police violently raided several houses and detained 18 people in Diyarbakir – 13 women and 5 men. This operation mainly targeted female Kurdish politicians and activists associated with the Rosa Women’s Association (RKD), the Free Women’s Movement (TJA), Democratic Regions Party (DBP), and the HDP. The police also raided the office of the RKD and confiscated their documents in the absence of their lawyers. The RKD was established after all women’s organizations in Diyarbakir were banned and shut down under emergency rule in 2016. It is the only women’s organization in the town involved in support work and struggles against violence against women.
This time, on June 26th, the police detained at least 42 people in 7 cities in an operation centered on Diyarbakir. 23 of the detainees were arrested and sent to prison on June 29th. Among the detainees were administrators of DTK, HDP, DBP, RKD, trade unions, and NGOs. The following list of some of the detainees shows the scope of the operation:
Ms Jiyan Taş, DTK Presidential Council Member
Mr Hüseyin Kaya, DTK Presidential Council Member
Ms Rojda Barış, Administrator of Rosa Women’s Association
Ms Naşide Toprak, Suspended Co-mayor of Silvan (who was already under house arrest),
Ms Sevil Rojbin Çetin, Former mayor of Edremit, HDP’s Local Governments Board Member
Ms Leyla Bağatır, DBP Party Assembly Member
Ms Ayten Tekeş, Administrator of Confederation of Public Employees Trade Union (KESK)
Ms Arin Zümrüt, Board Member of Diyarbakır Chamber of Mechanical Engineers
Ms Makbule Özbek, Member of Mothers for Peace (72 years old, has severe health problems)
Ms Selva Akkoyun, Former co-chair of HDP in Kulp district of Diyarbakir.
Mr Suphi İzol, President of Diyarbakır Branch the Office Laborers Union (BES)
Mr Fesih Balbey, Hazro district’s Municipal Council Member (HDP)
Mr Cahit Ay, Co-chair of HDP in Kocaköy district of Diyarbakir
The majority of the detainees were women, again. And the police was extremely violent. Here we would like to bring to your attention some facts from the testimony of former HDP mayor Ms Sevil Rojbin Çetin on her brutal torture and detention. Before she was taken to the police station, Ms Çetin was brutally tortured for three and a half hours by a special police unit in her apartment where she lives alone. The police released two dogs into her apartment before entering. The dogs bit both of her legs, almost cutting off her flesh. The police laid Ms Çetin on the ground by force and beat her up with gun butts and kicks. They swore at and insulted her with sexist language. They stepped on her feet and arms, hit and blew up her lips, and beat her black and blue. They bruised her entire body by battering. She has a footprint on her back. They tore her clothes and photographed her half-naked while her eyes closed. The marks of torture on her body are documented by a doctor’s report. This is the second time in a month that the police have used dogs to torture and detain people in Diyarbakir. On May 31st, the police raided with dogs the house of a couple with three children. The couple received a medical report on dog bites and filed a criminal complaint, but to no avail.
The criminalization of DTK over the last years has finally culminated into its unlawful closure as part of this police operation. After the raid, the police shut down DTK headquarters, confiscated its properties, and sealed its gates without a court decision. The DTK was established as an umbrella organization with a pluralistic general assembly in 2007. As a congress, it has been the largest and most diverse democratic platform in the Kurdish region. Among the delegates of its general assembly have been representatives from political parties such as the HDP and Democratic Regions Party (DBP), the women’s movement, many labor unions, civil society organizations, local councils, and the like. Over the last thirteen years, it has carried out activities in diverse fields ranging from public health, education, agriculture, and local democracy to women’s rights, social peace, and peace-building. The government started criminalizing the DTK and its activities as an illegal organization after the termination of the peace process with the Kurdish movement. Criminalization was fueled up during the emergency rule. Many administrators of the DTK have already been arrested. Most recently, on June 4th, its co-chair Ms Leyla Güven and Presidential Council member Mr Musa Farisoğulları, both HDP MPs, were stripped of their parliamentary mandate and arrested (Ms Güven was released later). Despite current criminalization, the AKP government and AKP politicians did communicate with the DTK as a legitimate interlocutor on various political matters in the past. For example, when secret peace talks were underway in 2012, Mr Cemil Çiçek, then the Speaker of the Turkish Parliament, officially invited the DTK to express its ideas and suggestions for a new Constitution.
We take up these continuing detentions and arrests, increasing dose of state violence such as torturing a Kurdish female mayor with dogs, or closure of a congress whose activities have been transparent throughout as signs of the government’s desperateness. Having difficulties in securing the consent of its citizens and reproducing its democratic legitimacy, particularly in Kurdish provinces, the government has been using naked force to maintain its rule. As we have said before, we expect the government to be more repressive towards the democratic opposition, the HDP and the Kurds in particular, due to deepening political and socio-economic instabilities under pandemic conditions. The HDP remains ever more committed to its relentless political struggle for a free, democratic, and peaceful future.
Feleknas Uca & Hişyar Özsoy
Co-spokespersons of HDP for Foreign Affairs
30 June 2020