Turkish court remands two more Kurdish politicians over Kobani protests

A court in Turkish capital Ankara has remanded in custody Kurdish politicians Gültan Kışanak and Gülser Yıldırım on Friday, charging the two women with inciting the widespread protests in 2014, known as the Kobani incidents.

Both Kışanak and Yıldırım faced the judge via video conference from Kandıra prison in the northwestern Kocaeli province where they are currently incarcerated, Mezopotamya agency reported.

“I am facing trial for a second time over the same case,” said Yıldırım, who served in the Turkish parliament between 2015 and 2018 for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

“I reject all the allegations. I have never called for any (violent) incidents,” the former lawmaker continued. “If there was ever a call, we made calls for democracy and against ISIS.”

Gültan Kışanak, former leader of the HDP’s sister Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), former mayor of Turkey’s largest Kurdish-majority province Diyarbakır, and former HDP member of parliament, said she has “never said or done anything outside of the bounds of democratic politics, and the interests of my country and my people.”

Kışanak asked about the full extent and source of two secret witness testimonies included in the case as evidence, but the court denied her request. “The charges brought against me must be explained to me openly and without a shadow of a doubt, rejecting our demands to this end is unlawful,” the Kurdish politician said.

“I would not be surprised if these witnesses turn out to be non-existent. We have seen such conspiracies many times in the past,” Kışanak said, pointing to severe discrepancies in one witness testimony.

The infamous Kobani incidents were three days of street protests between Oct. 6 and 8, 2014, which broke out after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani was “about to fall.” The town was under an Islamic State (ISIS) siege at the time, and had suffered a massacre of several hundred people. Kurds in Turkey and Syria had been calling for a humanitarian intervention.

At least 34 people were killed during the protests that spread to several provinces throughout Turkey. Most were HDP members killed by fundamentalist militias or Turkish security forces, according to the HDP’s own enquiries. The party submitted four parliamentary motions to investigate the matter, all of which were rejected by the ruling coalition’s votes.

The HDP’s imprisoned former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ have both faced charges of incitement to violence over allegedly calling people to the streets for Kobani, and Ankara’s chief public prosecutor has decided to take on the case again, six years after the events in question.

Former HDP lawmakers Sebahat Tuncel and Aysel Tuğluk were remanded into custody earlier this week over similar charges, while the prosecutor demanded the arrest of 82 people - most of them HDP members and officials - in late September.

During her defence, Kışanak said the revived investigation “aims to tear down democratic values in this country.”