Riot police intervene as pro-Kurdish HDP members distribute leaflets for annual congress

Turkish police on Saturday intervened on a group of pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) members in Istanbul as they attempted to hand out leaflets for the party’s upcoming annual congress.

Istanbul anti-riot police prevented a group of HDP members, including lawmakers Garo Paylan, İmam Taşçıer, Zeynel Özen, Erol Katırcıoğlu and Ali Kenanoğlu, from entering Istanbul’s İstiklal Street to distribute information on HDP’s annual congress set to take place on Sunday, independent news site T24 reported.

Police told the group that only lawmakers could hand out information leaflets and accused the group of also verbally inviting the public to attend Sunday’s event, which they said was not permitted.

Police encircled the group with riot shields when they refused to comply, it said.

HDP Istanbul lawmaker Zeynep Özen addressed the public from behind the police shields.

"You see for yourself what is happening today. This only shows how afraid they are of our rightfulness. They are even trying to prevent us from calls for our party’s congress,’’ Özen said. 

"We invite all of you to our party’s congress in Küçükçekmece [district] on Sunday,’’ she said. 

HDP’s annual congress on Sunday arrives as the Turkish government continues a wave of dismissals against Kurdish mayors in the country’s Kurdish-dominated eastern and southeastern provinces.

A total of 14 mayors from the pro-Kurdish HDP have been replaced by government-appointed mayors since the March local elections.