Erdoğan exploiting nationalism in aftermath of northern Iraq deaths - Deutsche Welle

The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is using the killing of 13 Turkish citizens in northern Iraq last week to malign opposition politicians and shore up support for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), German broadcaster Deutsche Welle said on Friday.

Erdoğan has engaged in a series of questionable PR tactics following the death of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) abducted Turkish nationals, it said, including,calling the mother of one of the dead hostages during a party convention, intensifying a crackdown on the pro-Kurdish opposition party and blasting opposition leaders who have pressed the AKP for details of the deaths.

Thirteen Turkish citizens, most of whom were members of Turkey’s security and intelligence services kidnapped by the PKK in 2015 and 2016, were killed last week during a Turkish military operation to free them from PKK encampments in Gara, northern Iraq.  

Turkish officials say the hostages were executed by the PKK. This is denied by the People's Defence Forces (HPG), the military wing of the PKK, which says all 13 were killed as a result of Turkish air strikes.

Izmir deputy of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Murat Bakan told Deutsche Welle that the government repeatedly ignored parliamentary questions on the missing Turkish citizens for years, noting complaints by some of their families on the state's indifference and lack of effort.

"Even though I kept bringing the situation of the families — their cries for help — to the attention of parliament, no action was ever taken," Bakan said.

A move by Erdoğan earlier this week to  call the mother of one of the victims has been met with criticism by the opposition CHP, which says Turkey’s strongman is looking to stir nationalist sentiments to serve his own agenda.

In the seemingly impromptu call, Erdoğan told the woman, "God willing, had become a neighbour of our beloved Prophet," before promising to avenge her son.

Meanwhile, there has been a fresh wave of arrests of over 700 members of the pro-Kurdish HDP over alleged PKK links. Ankara accuses the HDP of harbouring sympathy and acting in the interest of the PKK, a claim the HDP denies.

"The allegations and attacks on the HDP are an attempted lynching and part of a political campaign,"HDP deputy chairman Saruhan Oluc told Deutsche Welle.  "We reject it."