Erdoğan breaks silence on fatal pro-Kurdish party office attack

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday condemned an attack on a provincial office of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which left one person dead.

An investigation is underway against all links to the assailant who murdered a 20-year-old woman in the HDP’s headquarters in western İzmir province, T24 news site cited Erdoğan as saying. 

“I believe the perpetrator will receive the harshest punishment,” the Turkish president said.

A gunman, identified as 20-year-old Onur Gencer, on Thursday stormed the İzmir offices of Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party HDP and shot dead party volunteer Deniz Poyraz. The HDP maintains the attack was intended for a meeting of 40 officials at the office, which had been called off shortly ahead of the incident.

In his first testimony at the police station, Gencer told authorities that he “would have shot others too”, had he run into more people during his shooting spree, according to reports in Turkish media.

“We are working to ensure that not a single citizen of this country, regardless of their identity, is harmed in any way,” Erdoğan said. “We have and will condemn this provocative attack in İzmir.”

Erdoğan’s government has long targeted the HDP, accusing the party of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has been at war in Turkey for Kurdish autonomy for almost 40 years. The HDP denies the charges.

Since 2019, 48 of the 65 elected HDP mayors in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish eastern and southeastern regions have been removed from office by the Interior Ministry, citing “terror” investigations. In the previous term, 95 out of HDP’s 105 municipalities had faced the same fate. The former co-chairs of the party, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, have been jailed since November 2016 on terror charges.

Earlier this month, the chief public prosecutor of Turkey’s Court of Cassation re-filed a lawsuit calling for the closure of the HDP over alleged links to the PKK.