Opposition puts blame of raid on government
ANKARA / ISTANBUL
Demonstrators in central Istanbul protest the killing of 35 villagers in a cross-border strike by Turkish military jets.Turkey’s opposition parties have strongly criticized an air raid that killed up to 35 people in the southeastern province of Şırnak, putting the blame on the government.
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş told reporters yesterday that the killings were “clearly a massacre.”
Demirtaş also repeated Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s earlier words to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad: “An administration that massacres its own people has no legitimacy.”
A group of 50 smugglers crossed the border into Turkey and were stopped and redirected by soldiers from a nearby outpost right before they reached their village, Demirtaş said. “The air strike happened on the route they were directed to,” he said. “Those killed were young people who made a living by smuggling. There were people studying for university exams among them and the soldiers at the outpost knew it.”
Media outlets and the government were silent in the face of the killings, Demirtaş said, adding that the BDP had declared a three-day period of mourning.
Senior members of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) joined in criticizing the operation. CHP deputy chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu called for a thorough investigation into the “grave” incident and the punishment of those responsible. “If a solution is still being sought for the Kurdish problem through means outside democracy, then we are at a dead end,” he said.
CHP Tunceli deputy Hüseyin Aygün questioned the efficiency of intelligence-gathering and the cross-border raids. “What kind of intelligence suddenly turns villagers, who have been known to live on smuggling for years, into PKK militants who are being bombed and killed? This intelligence must be questioned. We must debate also how beneficial cross-border operations,” Aygün said.
Another CHP deputy chairman was less critical of the raid. “It is understandable that a country should protect its domestic security and borders,” said Gökhan Günaydın. “However, operations conducted on intelligence must be handled carefully. Even if these people were engaged in an illegal activity such as smuggling, they do not deserve to be bombed to death. We will take a clear position on the issue after the security forces make a statement.”
Several demonstrations were held across the country yesterday to protest the deadly air raid.
Police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters in central Istanbul, while shops remained closed in many provinces and districts in southeastern Turkey in protest at the killings. A group gathered in the eastern province of Hakkari’s Yüksekova district to protest the killings. BDP deputy Esat Canan read a press statement, calling the incident a “massacre” and declaring the AKP responsible for it.
Another BDP deputy, Ertuğrul Kürkçü, also pinned the blame on the government. “When we read the written statement of the Turkish Armed Forces today, we saw this massacre was part of a war plan. The responsibility for the massacre belongs to the government, especially Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin and Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay,” Kürkçü told a press conference in Istanbul yesterday.
AKP deputy leader Hüseyin Çelik urged the BDP to restrain itself.
“They can very well declare mourning, but encouraging the people to violence will only cause more suffering,” he said in Ankara.