Turkish-Kurd conflict leads to violent protests

Turkish nationalists demonstrating against the Kurdistan Workers' Party in Istanbul on Tuesday.
Turkish nationalists demonstrating against the Kurdistan Workers' Party in Istanbul on Tuesday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Crowds attack buildings, set opposition party offices on fire after bombings by both sides

ISTANBUL • Turkey's escalating conflict with Kurdish separatists has sparked protests across the country as crowds attacked the offices of Kurdish and opposition parties as well as media organisations in a night of nationalist-tinged violence, while the army targeted rebel strongholds in northern Iraq.

The headquarters of the main Kurdish party in the capital, Ankara, was set on fire late on Tuesday, while another branch in the southern city of Alanya was also torched, reported local news agencies, with similar attacks in many other cities.

Early on Tuesday, the Turkish air force pounded Kurdish militant targets in northern Iraq while special forces crossed the border in a rare land incursion. That came after a series of bombings by Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants that left 16 soldiers and 15 police officers dead, the army said.

The state-run Anatolia agency said 150 Turkish troops had entered northern Iraq with the aim of "destroying" two dozen PKK militants who escaped from Turkey over the border after carrying out one of the attacks in Daglica.

Nationalist protesters vented their anger at the bombings by attacking buildings across the country belonging to the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which they accuse of being the political wing of the PKK.

In Ankara, dozens of people threw stones and ripped down the sign outside the HDP's headquarters, images broadcast by the CNN-Turk channel showed, while pictures on social media suggested that the interior of the building had been gutted by fire.

Similar nationalist demonstrations took place in six other cities across Turkey, CNN-Turk reported. 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 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A branch of the opposition CHP party also came under attack in the town of Sincan near Ankara, Hurriyet reported.

Protesters separately set two cars on fire outside the CHP office in Konya as well as a stationery shop in Kirsehir in central Turkey, the newspaper said.

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," said Mr Demirtas. "We are facing a campaign of lynching."

Ms Figen Yuksekdag, the party's other co-leader, said on Tuesday that nearly 130 party branches have been attacked across Turkey, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency. Mr Demirtas said that Mr Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had ordered a campaign to target the HDP and said they should be brought to justice.

On Tuesday evening, Mr Davutoglu denounced the 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 violence reflects a widening divide in the country since an election in June brought the HDP party into Parliament for the first time. The vote failed to produce a clear outcome, and Turks will go to the polls again on Nov 1.

But Mr Demirtas said the difficult security situation cast doubt on the election being held. "It is becoming impossible to hold an election given the security situation in the region," he said.

"We want an election to be held and we are not saying an election can't be held, but we want the conditions in the region to be improved for an election," he added.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 10, 2015, with the headline 'Turkish-Kurd conflict leads to violent protests'. Print Edition | Subscribe