Unrest in the country’s Southeastern Anatolia region has begun to grow visibly in the wake of the killing of 12 suspected terrorists over the weekend, sparking more tension between locals and security forces ahead of the June 12 elections.
“In order to shape the results in the upcoming elections, to get 3-5 more points in votes, they play with not only Kurdish, but all social texture of Turkey. We are very concerned with this blindness, since the outcome of this method can lead to a civil war,” Sırrı Sakık, a parliament member running as an independent with the support of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, told Hürriyet Daily News on Sunday.
The incidents that have shaken the entire region began after security forces killed at least 12 members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, when they were spotted crossing the border from Iraq. Earlier, the Anatolia News Agency reported that a soldier was killed in a land mine explosion in the province of Hakkari.
The Fırat news agency, known to have links to the outlawed PKK, said five Turkish soldiers were killed Sunday as retaliation in Uludere province of Hakkari. There was no confirmation from the Chief of General Staff on the news.
Military operations against the PKK, which were launched on Thursday, sparked local reactions in many different places in the Southeastern Anatolia region, where the population is predominantly ethnically Kurdish. The PKK and local people have declared a three-day mourning period, while shopkeepers did not open their shops.
A group backed by the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, officials wanted to cross the Iraqi border to get to the funerals of three PKK members. Hasip Kaplan, an independent deputy who is running for the parliament for another term, contacted security officers to get permission.
“This is a massacre and war crime. We will carry our hatred to the streets,” Filiz Koçali, co-chairperson of the BDP told reporters in Diyarbakır.
She said the police did not allow her and BDP-backed candidates to make press statements in Diyarbakır.
Government increases tension
Sırrı Sakık said tension was increased by the government on purpose, recalling the unilateral PKK decision to launch an ‘inaction period’ until mid-June.
“Why have the military and the police started to attack now,” he asked, implying that the operations were in fact for the benefit of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Recalling Erdoğan’s rhetoric denying the existence of a Kurdish problem and that the current government was not different from earlier ones in trying to resolve the question “with blood,” Sakık also said “the PKK could retaliate to the military operations.”
“We know this from the experiences in the past… the politicians are responsible,” Sakık said.
AKP in defense
Responding to claims that tension will work for the advantage of the ruling party, a Justice and Development Party, or AKP, candidate from Diyarbakır said it was in fact good for the Kurdish and the nationalist party.
“There is a game now, targeting to escalate tension and affect the results of the elections and keep the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, above the election threshold. They want to decrease the number of AKP deputies the point where they lose the ability to change the constitution,” Galip Ensarioğlu a Kurdish candidate and deputy from AKP told the Daily News on Sunday.
Ensarioğlu said all such tension was aimed at killing the hopes of the new parliament to write the new constitution, which could solve the Kurdish issue.
CHP calls for non-violence
Any news of deaths has been harming the security of elections, a main opposition party candidate with Kurdish origins said.
“We desire an environment without clashes, where neither soldiers nor members of the PKK are dying,” Sezgin Tanrıkulu, candidate deputy of Republican People’s Party, or CHP, told the Daily News.
“An atmosphere of non-violence should be provided,” Tanrıkulu said, stressing that any clashes between the PKK and military which could end in death would seriously harm the election environment.
“The Kurdish problem should no longer be an issue of politics. It should be above the politics. Political parties must immediately compromise on a solution and keep society far away from tension,” he said.