ISTANBUL — The Turkish government has intensified its pre-election crackdown on Kurdish politicians and activists, with several high-profile arrests made in recent days. Human rights groups have expressed concern over the targeting of opposition groups and activists.
The crackdown comes ahead of local and national elections scheduled for later this year. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is facing growing opposition, particularly in Kurdish-majority regions of the country.
Turkish police have reportedly arrested at least 126 people across 21 provinces. Among those arrested was the co-mayor of the southeastern city of Omid (Diyarbakir), Firat Anli. Anli is a member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which has been accused by the Turkish government of having links to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Anli has denied the accusations.
The majority of the arrests have targeted members of HDP on the basis of alleged links between the party and the PKK. The HDP denies any connection to the PKK.
The HDP has criticized the timing of the arrests, suggesting they are intended to influence the outcome of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, stating that they are part of a broader campaign of intimidation by Erdogan’s government which is concerned about its prospects in the elections given the president’s declining popularity and rising inflation and unemployment rates.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned the crackdown, stating that it “sends a chilling message to Kurdish voters” and undermines the right to free and fair elections. The group has called on the Turkish government to release all those arrested and to respect the rights of all political parties and their supporters.
The Turkish government, however, has defended its actions, stating that it is targeting individuals who are suspected of terrorism and posing a threat to national security.
The HDP has denied any links to the PKK and has accused the Turkish government of using anti-terrorism laws to stifle dissent and opposition. The party has called for an end to the crackdown and for the government to engage in peaceful dialogue with Kurdish politicians and activists.
The situation in Turkey is being closely monitored by international organizations, including the United Nations and the European Union. Both organizations have expressed concern over the targeting of Kurds and have called on the Turkish government to respect the rights of all citizens, regardless of their ethnicity or political affiliations.
As the election season heats up in Turkey, the crackdown is likely to continue. However, many are hoping that the government will listen to the calls for dialogue and respect for human rights, and work towards a peaceful and inclusive election process.