Attack against HDP headquarters raises pre-election tension

Attack against HDP headquarters raises pre-election tension

Attack against HDP headquarters raises pre-election tension

Bullet holes mark the sign after assailants opened fire on the headquarters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples? Democratic Party, (HDP) early on April 18, 2015 in Ankara. AFP Photo

An armed attack at the headquarters of Turkey’s Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Ankara on April 18 has added insult to injury, as tension in the run-up to the June 7 parliamentary election had already flared after a controversial April 11 clash between security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the eastern province of Ağrı, which strained ties between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and opposition parties, particularly the HDP.

There were no casualties in the attack, which both the HDP and the AKP government described as a provocation ahead of the June 7 election. Two suspects, believed to have been perpetrators of the attack, were taken to the Ankara Courthouse by anti-terror police officers on April 19 in order to be questioned by a prosecutor. 

Although they echoed each other’s view while describing the attack as a provocation, the AKP and the HDP, however, mutually blamed each other for raising the tension on purpose. 

“Those who think they can stop or intimidate us with such provocations will see they are mistaken,” the HDP said in a written statement. “We warn the government to achieve election security and expect the perpetrators to be caught immediately.”

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu chose Twitter to express his preliminary reaction.

“I condemn this attack, as I condemned the previous attacks that targeted our democracy and our stability. I invite all parties to display a joint attitude against violence wherever in Turkey it happens,” Davutoğlu said on April 18 in a series of tweets.

“Provocation is continuing. We will not yield,” HDP Istanbul deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder wrote on Twitter on April 18. 

The day after

Everybody has clearly seen the primary liability for “the conspiracy and the provocation set in Ağrı” belongs to the government, HDP Co-Chair Figen Yüksekdağ said, while speaking to reporters in the eastern Anatolian province of Ağrı on April 19.

“The government is in the position of instigator in the armed attack [in Ankara]. It is instigating armed attacks, terror attacks and violent actions. That’s why I’m calling on the government. They should put some distance between themselves and arms. They should give up making politics through arms. They should give up using war methods in order to be able to keep us below the threshold. It is harming all the people of Turkey,” Yüksekdağ said. 

Turkey and jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan have been in talks to end decades of conflict between Turkey’s security forces and PKK militants.

The HDP has been central to the talks, shuttling between Ankara, Öcalan’s island jail and the PKK bases in northern Iraq. The talks have attracted fierce opposition from Turkish nationalists. 

The HDP has been aiming to exceed a threshold of 10 percent of the vote needed to enter parliament in the June 7 election and opinion polls indicate its support is currently around that level. 

Also on April 19, during an election campaign visit, Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan condemned the attack against the HDP headquarters. 

“Arms mean provocation. These kinds of provocations, dirty hands come into play during election times and they somehow try to manipulate the will of the nation,” Akdoğan said. 

“Yesterday, our party busses were subject to attacks and were stoned in the east and the southeast. The prevention of our candidates’ campaigns is being attempted. These should also be seen, there should be no double-standards and we should not always see one side. It is clear who these are. There is an organized effort here,” he added, in implicit remarks echoing the government’s suggestion that the PKK was putting pressure on people to vote in favor of the HDP in the June 7 election.