First election debate comes amid clashes with the PKK
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his wife visit soldiers who were wounded in Ağrı attack at a military hospital on April 12. AA PhotoThe first major debate heading to the June 7 elections has come in the wake of the first major clash between the Turkish military and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in over two years.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and government officials have accused the PKK of “trying to pressure people to vote for the Peoples’ Democratic Party [HDP],” while the HDP side has argued that the operation was “pre-planned and fake.”
Five PKK militants were killed and four Turkish soldiers were injured in the eastern province of Ağrı on April 11, in clashes that erupted after PKK militants opened fire on security forces, the military said in a statement. The PKK yesterday denied that its militants attacked first, also arguing that one civilian and one PKK militant were killed in the clashes.
“The attacks targeted Turkish democracy and the election poll,” Ahmet Davutoğlu said at a party meeting in Istanbul April 12.
“I address [HDP co-leader Selahattin] Demirtaş, who is silent on the terror in the east: If you are a part of this trap, you and those behind you should know that the AK Party will demolish all those traps,” the prime minister said. HDP Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, meanwhile, accused the General Staff of “working for the AKP.”
“There wasn’t a clash in Ağrı yesterday, there was a pre-planned, fake operation,” Demirtaş said yesterday in his party’s fist election rally in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district. “There were no ambulances, they carried the soldiers in bed sheets. There is footage of this incident.” On April 11, he accused the military of “provocation.”
“It would be good if the General Staff stopped working for the AKP. The army is the country’s army, not one party’s. The General Staff is not a party running in the elections. It would be better if it did not make such speculative, election-related remarks,” Demirtaş added. The HDP co-chair vowed that his party will not be “provoked.”
Erdoğan blames HDP for clashes
“The soldiers sent to conduct operations on the PKK are our children, our brothers. Their lives are our lives. The PKK members you try to kill are the children of these people. We will not let them kill each other. We will not allow any more bloodshed in this country,” he said. President Erdoğan, in a speech on April 11 in the northwestern province of Sakarya, blamed the HDP for the clashes, without giving the party’s name.
“Today, a separatist terror organization, which aims to dynamite the peace in our country and sabotage the solution process, attacked our security forces who serve to ensure the security of our nation. I strongly condemn this attack,” Erdoğan said. “The known political party is in efforts to gain votes with the actions of this separatist terror organization. If they say democracy, if they say basic rights and freedoms, the way to achieve this is at the polls, not with arms,” he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan, who is the main government figure in the ongoing Kurdish peace process, also argued that the primary target was the elections. “Involving pressure, violence and arms in the political competition, trying to forcefully control the peoples’ will, cannot be accepted. Those who play with fire will lose,” he wrote.
The clashes, which continued for over 12 hours on April 11, came amid a delicate ceasefire between the PKK and the Turkish military, which has held for over two years.
Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK, urged the outlawed group to convene an extraordinary congress to “end the 40-year-long armed struggle” against Turkey in a letter read out during the Nevruz celebrations in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on March 21. In his letter, Öcalan also stressed the need for a “democratic solution” to Turkey’s Kurdish problem, arguing that the “meaningless and merciless identity wars” were the result of “the neoliberal crisis caused by the imperialist capitalism and its local collaborators.”
He issued his first call on the PKK to declare a ceasefire during Nevruz in 2013, which was followed by a peace process involving negotiations between the government, the HDP and Öcalan.