Pressure intensifies on Turkey’s pro-Kurdish HDP after Sunday raid

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey is facing increasing pressure from the authorities since a police raid on a district headquarters in Istanbul on Sunday.

Police raided the HDP building in Istanbul’s Esenyurt region, detaining two of the party’s district chairs. They are accused of membership of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

The raid followed images shared on social media of posters of Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of PKK, allegedly hanging in the HDP’s office, Evrensel newspaper reported.

After the raid, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s political allies and party officials, including presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun, accused the HDP of links to the PKK and urged for it to be banned.

Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Erdoğan’s junior coalition partner in parliament, also called for the party to be outlawed in comments on Tuesday.

Bahçeli, in a parliamentary speech, blamed other opposition parties for involvement in terrorism by requesting that former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş’s be released from jail.  

HDP co-leader Pervin Buldan said the raid was a “provocation and a continuation of plots aiming to draw the HDP out of democratic politics,” Reuters reported.

“The government bloc, which cannot face us politically, has entered a war with the HDP using the judicial and security mechanism under its command,” she said.

The Turkish government has long accused the HDP of harbouring sympathies for and acting in the interests of the PKK, an armed group that has fought for Kurdish autonomy from Turkey for almost four decades. It is labelled a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union. The HDP denies such links.

Demirtaş has remained in jail since 2016 despite several court orders for his release, both from the Turkish courts and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Demirtaş was detained along with other HDP deputies on Nov. 4, 2016 for alleged links to the PKK, a charge that he denies.