In Turkey / Türkiye

By Will Ripley and Chandrika Narayan, CNN, Nov 5, 2016

ISTANBUL – Clashes erupted Saturday in Istanbul between police and protesters demonstrating against the arrests of opposition politicians and journalists. Turkish police in riot gear used tear gas, stun grenades and pepper spray to break up a crowd of several hundred people.

Police in Istanbul use tear gas, arrests against pro-democracy street protest on Nov 5, 2016 (screenshot from CNN)

Police in Istanbul use tear gas, arrests against pro-democracy street protest on Nov 5, 2016 (screenshot from CNN)

Protesters gathered to voice their anger at Friday’s round-up of nearly a dozen pro-Kurdish lawmakers, including the two leaders of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). They’re also upset at the arrest of of journalists and executives of an opposition newspaper last weekend. The staffers were charged with links to the Kurdistan Workers party, or PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

Hundreds marched down the streets of Istanbul on Saturday, chanting “We will resist, we will win.” Police issued several warnings via loudspeaker but were unable to disperse the crowd. Officers then fired tear gas and aimed water cannons at the crowd as the protesters marched from Sisli, a district on the European side of Istanbul, to the headquarters of opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet.

Protests turned violent last month

Police confront pro-democracy protesters in Istanbul on Nov 5, 2016 (Dokuz8 Twitter feed)

Police confront pro-democracy protesters in Istanbul on Nov 5, 2016 (Dokuz8 Twitter feed)

A CNN crew saw more than a dozen protesters arrested. Police also chased demonstrators through standing traffic and down side streets and alleys as the situation escalated. Pedestrians, including children, were caught in the middle of the confusion and were seen covering their faces and coughing from exposure to tear gas and pepper spray.

Some shoppers took shelter in stores, which locked their doors to keep crowds and tear gas from getting inside.

Pro-democracy rally in Istanbul on Nov 5, 2016, soon attacked by police with tear gas, water cannon (Dokuz8 Twitter feed)

Pro-democracy rally in Istanbul on Nov 5, 2016, soon attacked by police with tear gas, water cannon (Dokuz8 Twitter feed)

Journalists covering Saturday’s protest also faced police intimidation. CNN crews on the ground in Istanbul witnessed a journalist being threatened with arrest. His phone was temporarily confiscated by an officer, who deleted more than a dozen photos and videos of the protest.

Party leaders detained

Early Friday, more than a dozen members of Parliament from the pro-Kurdish HDP were detained because they failed to respond to a summons by a prosecutor, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s office. State media reported several of the party’s politicians were detained as part of a terrorism investigation, following raids on their homes.

HDP party leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were among those arrested, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The HDP, Turkey’s third-largest political party, also said its headquarters in Ankara was raided.
Authorities also blocked access to the WhatsApp messaging service, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, according to

Ongoing crackdown after failed coup

Turkey’s government responded with a heavy hand after a failed military coup last July. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to root out perceived enemies of the state and led an intense crackdown on government critics and the PKK, and those with alleged ties to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the coup attempt. Hundreds of military officers have been suspended, thousands of teachers have been dismissed, public servants sacked and media organizations shut down.

Turkey also blamed the PKK for a car bombing Friday in the southeast, even though ISIS claimed responsibility. While ISIS is suspected in bombing attacks that have killed hundreds of people in Turkey, Friday’s bombing is believed to be the first time the terrorist group has taken credit for an attack inside Turkey — one of their primary jihadist recruiting grounds.

The Kurds are Turkey’s largest ethnic minority. They have fought for equal rights and greater autonomy for decades — and the PKK has carried out attacks primarily on Turkish government and military targets.


Protests in Turkey and Europe against repression by Turkish gov’t

Euronews, Nov 5, 2016 

Protests in Turkey

Supporters of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) clashed with police during an anti-government protest in Istanbul on Saturday.

Turkish police fired water cannon and tear gas.

Hundreds of protesters were trying to march to the Cumhuriyet newspaper after several staff were arrested.  A Reuters reporter at the scene described tear gas filling some streets in the Sisli neighbourhood of Istanbul.

The protest in central Istanbul came hours after Turkish authorities ordered the formal arrest of nine staff members of the opposition newspaper.

More Kurdish political leaders have been arrested, widening an anti-terrorism inquiry that has drawn condemnation from the abroad.

Protests in Germany

Around 6,500 Kurdish supporters demonstrated peacefully in the German city of Cologne on Saturday. They criticised Germany for not doing enough to stop Erdogan’s government from detaining and suspending officials, including judges, teachers, police and civil servants in the wake of a failed military coup in July.

Friday’s arrests

The demonstrators are also protesting the arrest of 12 pro-Kurdish lawmakers on Friday by Turkish authorities. Those arrested included HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas, Turkey’s state-run news agency Anadolu reported.

The agency says Demirtas has been taken to a maximum security prison in the northwestern city of Edirne.

The 12 party legislators were detained for refusal to testify on terror-related charges, according to Turkish officials.

Who are the HDP?

The People’s Democratic Party (HDP) is Turkey’s third-largest party. It made history last year by becoming the first Kurdish-rooted party to win the 10% of the vote required to enter parliament.

Erdogan and the governing AK Party accuse the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a violent insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast for three decades. The HDP denies direct links and says it is working for a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish conflict.


Turkish riot police use water cannon, tear gas against Istanbul protesters

RT.com, Nov 5, 2016  (with video and photos)

Turkish police have used water cannon and tear gas against protesters as hundreds took to the streets of Istanbul to demand the release of journalists and editors of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper.

The demonstration in the center of the Turkey’s capital came just hours after Turkish authorities ordered the formal arrest of nine Cumhuriyet staff members and detained more pro-Kurdish officials. The protesters are trying to march to the office of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, while police are attempting to block them.

Numerous protests have also hit other Turkish cities, with some ending in clashes with police. At least ten protesters were detained in Ankara, five in Antalya, and seven in Istanbul, Al Bawaba news reports, citing Turkish officials.

Meanwhile, in London, the Kurdish community also took to the streets to protest the crackdown on journalists and pro-Kurdish politicians in Turkey. The protesters reportedly pelted the Turkish embassy in London with eggs, breaking at least one window.

On Friday, two co-leaders of the Turkish pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) were arrested along with 12 of its MPs. The lawmakers were detained after “failing to appear for a summons to testify as part of a counter-terrorism investigation,” Anadolu state news agency reported.

At the same time, Turkey’s major internet providers restricted access to Twitter, Facebook, and the WhatsApp social messaging app, according to Turkey Blocks, an independent organization that monitors internet censorship in Turkey.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said she was “extremely worried” by the detention of the HDP MPs. US Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski tweeted that he was “deeply troubled” by Turkey’s actions.

Turkey reacted to the criticism by saying that it would not be intimidated by “threats” and “does not care about red lines” drawn by foreign politicians.


Turkish academics, students protest on Nov 3 against post-coup purges

Reuters, Thursday, Nov 3, 2016

By Humeyra Pamuk and Ayla Jean Yackley, Reuters, Nov 3, 2016

ISTANBUL – Hundreds of academics, students and union members staged a protest on Thursday against a purge of thousands of educational staff since Turkey’s attempted military coup in July.

Turkey accuses U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the July 15 putsch and has dismissed or suspended more than 110,000 civil servants, academics, judges, police and others over suspected links to the preacher.

The crowd chanted “We will win by resisting” in front of Istanbul University as dozens of riot police wearing gas masks looked on. Teachers who had lost their jobs wept and hugged students.

Among those suspended or removed in the purges since July are nearly 50,000 educational staff. Under the coup probe, some 37,000 people have been jailed pending trial.

“We are facing a period worse than the coup,” said Tahsin Yesildere, head of a university teaching staff group. “In our country, which is being turned into a one-man regime through the state of emergency (declared after the coup), all those in opposition resisting this trend have become targets,” he told Reuters, referring to President Tayyip Erdogan.

The scale of the crackdown has alarmed Turkey’s Western allies and foreign investors. Human rights groups and opposition parties say Erdogan, who traces his political roots to a banned Islamist party, is using the coup as a pretext to muzzle all dissent in the European Union-candidate nation.

The interior ministry said on Thursday it had suspended 1,218 gendarmerie personnel on suspicion of links to Gulen. Officials say such measures are justified by the threat to democracy posed by Gulen’s followers, once strong supporters of Erdogan. More than 240 people were killed in the coup, when rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and fighter jets.

“Tyranny”

“We won’t surrender,” said a banner held by protesters, echoing a headline in the opposition daily Cumhuriyet, whose editor and senior staff were detained this week on accusations their coverage had helped precipitate the coup.

“Our dismissal comes as part of the tyranny that is being built,” Levent Dolek, a research assistant in economics at Istanbul University until last week. “Our removal is just a detail considering the darkness Turkey is drifting into.”

Can Dundar, Cumhuriyet‘s editor until July and now overseas to avoid an arrest warrant, said Erdogan’s campaign was aimed at the secular values of the Turkish state. “The real war here is with the Turkish Republic,” Dundar told Reuters in a phone interview. “This is not a fight for a newspaper, it is the fight for a country.”

Dundar was sentenced in May to six years in prison for revealing state secrets in the newspaper and left Turkey before the coup while free on appeal. He described the charges that the secularist daily backed the Gulen network as “comical”.

“We spent our entire careers, especially the last ten years, explaining how dangerous the Gulen movement was,” he said.

In a sign of how confused the crackdown has become, a prosecutor appointed to handle the case against the paper, Murat Inam, is himself a defendant in a case against suspected Gulenists.

“It is unfortunate such an appointment was made. I wish it hadn’t been done,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said in parliament.

Turkish media showed video footage of what they said were the two putsch ringleaders arriving at Istanbul’s main airport two days before the coup. The reports said the men had been returning from one of several visits to the United States where they allegedly met Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. He denies involvement.

Kemal Batmaz, who had headed a paper company, is in detention after being arrested in the coup’s immediate aftermath, state-run Anadolu news agency said. Police are still searching for Adil Oksuz, a teacher.

Chief Ankara prosecutor Harun Kodalak told Anadolu that the two were key figures in the plot. He said court cases against coup suspects would be opened at the start of 2017.

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