Clashes continue in Ceylanpınar over disputed vote in local Turkish elections

Clashes continue in Ceylanpınar over disputed vote in local Turkish elections

ŞANLIURFA - Doğan News Agency
Clashes continue in Ceylanpınar over disputed vote in local Turkish elections

BDP supporters erect barricades on the streets of Ceylanpınar, which borders Syria. AA Photo

Authorities have banned all street demonstrations for one month in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa’s Ceylanpınar district after clashes between police and supporters of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), protesting alleged irregularities in the March 30 elections.

Police used tear gas, plastic bullets and water cannons on protesters on April 1 to disperse BDP supporters, who accused the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of electoral fraud in the district, which borders Ras al-Ain in northern Syria in the Kurdish-controlled region known as Rojava, Doğan News Agency reported.

Journalists and others traveling to the district from central Şanlıurfa were also prevented from reaching the area by police, according to reports.

Police reportedly also fired tear gas at groups of people amassing in solidarity at the border in Rojava, which is culturally linked with largely Kurdish regions in Turkey like Ceylanpınar.

Tensions increased after the District Electoral Board rejected the BDP’s objections to the vote.

According to provisional results, the AKP candidate Menderes Atilla defeated the BDP’s co-candidates, İsmail Arslan and Esra Güvenaslan, by 755 votes.

“During the entire election, a number of BDP observers were forced away from ballot boxes through threats. We have also determined that a number of people who were known to be outside of the country on voted on Election Day,” Arslan said. “Burned and ripped ballots favoring the BDP were also found, while a number of votes for the BDP that should have been accepted were declared invalid.”

‘State of emergency’

The People’s Democracy Party (HDP) affiliated Şanlıurfa lawmaker İbrahim Ayhan said a de facto state of emergency had been declared in the district following the ban on demonstrations. He also accused the AKP of cracking down on demonstrators in the town.

There were also reports that armed men, believed to be Islamist rebels fighting against Kurdish forces and President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, were traveling around the district, occasionally opening fire. According to some claims, members of the People's Protection Units (YPG), the defense force for Rojava, could be deployed to the border "if necessary" to protect residents of Ceylanpınar.

There was also tension over the election results in the eastern province of Ağrı, as well as the eastern province of Bitlis’ Ahlat and Norşin districts.

BDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş criticized the alleged attempts to steal votes in areas around the region. “Despite a thousand different types of electoral fraud, we will not remain silent against attempts to steal the people’s victories,” he said, while calling on party supporters to stand guard wherever votes were being recounted.

Elsewhere, a 15-year-old boy identified as N.K. was left with severe injuries after being struck in the face by a tear-gas canister fired by police in Şanlıurfa’s Birecik district. The clashes left several people injured.