Turkey pro-Kurdish party warns of ‘civil war’

HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas says Kurds are facing a “campaign of lynching” after wave of attacks by nationalists.

A firebrigade truck is parked outside a damaged bookstore after it was set on fire by ultra nationalist protesters in Kirsehir,Turkey
Ultranationalist protesters in Kirsehir set fire to a bookstore owned by an HDP official [Reuters]

The leader of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party HDP warned the country was being dragged into a “civil war” after a wave of attacks on its offices by nationalists outraged by Kurdish rebel violence. 

Tensions have risen sharply in Turkey in the past few days, as the government presses a major military operation against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters, and the rebels hit back with daily attacks against the army and police.

On Tuesday night, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Ankara and other cities to condemn the increasingly bloody PKK assaults in the east, where two attacks killed 29 soldiers and police between Sunday and Tuesday.

The demonstrators took aim at the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), whom they accuse of collaborating with the PKK, setting fire to a room in the party’s headquarters in Ankara and also setting an office in the southern city of Alanya alight.

Turkish media said 93 people were detained in Istanbul alone over the attacks.

State-backed ‘lynching’

HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas denounced what he described as two nights of government-backed “lynching” of the party.

“We are facing a campaign of lynching,” he said, laying the blame at the feet of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

“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.

Nationalist demonstrators chanted slogans near the HDP headquarters in Ankara after an attack by a group of nationalists [Adem Altan/AFP]
Nationalist demonstrators chanted slogans near the HDP headquarters in Ankara after an attack by a group of nationalists [Adem Altan/AFP]

Addressing a press conference in Ankara with visiting European Union President Donald Tusk, Erdogan hit back, saying Demirtas was “mad” to talk of civil war and warning: “If you side with terrorism you will have to suffer the consequences.”

HDP leaders had to “choose between democracy and terrorism”, Erdogan said.

Shortly afterwards, the prosecutor’s office in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir announced it had launched a case against Demirtas for “insulting the president”, “condoning a terrorist organisation” and “inciting crime”.

The prosecutors would seek to have Demirtas stripped of his parliamentary immunity, the office said.

Demirtas said the party had suffered over 400 attacks on its property.

Davutoglu denounced the attacks, as well as an attack on Tuesday on the offices of Hurriyet newspaper in Istanbul, which Erdogan supporters accuse of misrepresenting the president.

“The objective of terrorism is to undermine our unshakable, brotherly ties. Attacking the press and the property of political parties is unacceptable,” the premier wrote on Twitter.