No room for autonomy seekers: Erdoğan

No room for autonomy seekers: Erdoğan

No room for autonomy seekers: Erdoğan

AFP photo

Turkey’s president has blasted calls for autonomy for several southeastern towns populated mostly by Kurds in a speech in Ankara on Jan. 28, making clear that there would be no room for autonomy seekers.

“It should be known that we will bring the whole world down on those who seek to establish a state within a state under the name of autonomy and self-governance,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Jan. 28 at the “All United for New Constitution” event at the ATO Congresium in the Turkish capital. 

A number of mayors and district mayors have appeared in court as they made statements calling for autonomy and leading figures from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which focuses on the Kurdish issue, have been sued. Criminal investigations were launched against HDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ as they made statements on self-governance.

“What do we say? One flag,” Erdoğan said, adding that no flag other than the Turkish flag could fly in the sky while noting that its color was red because of the martyrdom of innumerable soldiers for the integrity of the Turkish homeland.

Dismissing autonomy calls made amid an environment of violence between Turkish security forces and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, Erdoğan said the same action would be taken against autonomy seekers as was taken before against followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, which leading figures from the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Erdoğan and his inner circle accuse of forming and heading a purported terrorist organization. 

Erdoğan and many AKP lawmakers accuse followers of Gülen of forming a “parallel structure” to topple the Turkish government, with its purported members working as insiders in the police and other state institutions.

Turkey’s southeast, meanwhile, has been roiled by operations and curfews that have led to hundreds of casualties over the past month.

A policeman who was heavily wounded during an operation against the PKK in the Sur district of the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on Jan. 27 succumbed to his injuries on Jan. 28, bringing the death toll in a Jan. 27 attack against government forces to five. 

A curfew in place in several neighborhoods of Sur district was also extended to five other nearby neighborhoods and a main road, the Sur District Governor’s Office announced on Jan. 27. The curfew will now include Sur’s Abdaldede, Alipaşa, Lalebey, Süleyman Nazif and Ziya Gökalp neighborhoods, as well as Melihahmet Street.

Turkey has recently stepped up counterterrorism efforts in its southeast with curfews imposed on several towns amid round-the-clock curfews.

Six PKK fighters were killed in operations in southeast Turkey, the Turkish military said on Jan. 28.    

In a statement, the Turkish General Staff said two were killed in Cizre, Şırnak province, and four in Sur on Jan. 27.      

The statement said 467 PKK militants were “neutralized” – a euphemism used by the government to describe killed or wounded fighters – in Cizre and 138 in Sur since early December 2015. Security forces defused 10 improvised explosive devices, seized a Kalashnikov rifle, five shotguns and ammunition in Cizre on Jan. 27, the Turkish army added.