Şemdinli encounter adds to row on Aygün’s words

Şemdinli encounter adds to row on Aygün’s words

ANKARA / ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Şemdinli encounter adds to row on Aygün’s words

‘Everybody should put a distinct distance [between themselves] and those who get involved in terror’ says Gül after Ramadan bayram prayers at the Blue Mosque. AA photo

An encounter between Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) lawmakers and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in the eastern province of Hakkari’s Şemdinli district has sparked fury from the president, as well as ruling and opposition parties yesterday. The meeting has fuelled a new row on the heels of criticism directed at Republican People’s Party (CHP) Tunceli deputy Hüseyin Aygün for statements he made after being freed by militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) following his abduction last week.

Aygün was kidnapped by two PKK militants on Aug. 12 as he was returning from a visit to Tunceli’s Ovacık district before being released 48 hours later. Speaking to reporters in Tunceli after his release, Aygün said he had been “treated with respect” by the PKK members. “The organization said they kidnapped me for propaganda reasons,” he said. Aygün’s remarks raised eyebrows within his party and from some nationalist circles. Three days after his release, a group of PKK militants stopped BDP lawmakers as the deputies were returning from a visit to a village outside Şemdinli. A video released by Doğan news agency showed nine BDP lawmakers, including BDP co-chair Gültan Kışanak, hugging and chatting with the militants. “I hope we will bring freedom for you,” Kışanak was heard saying to one of the fighters. The BDP lawmakers told reporters that the meeting was a chance encounter and not planned in advance.

The meeting was “sorrowful,” President Abdullah Gül said yesterday, calling on everybody to act responsibly. “Everybody should put a distinct distance [between themselves] and those who get involved in violence, terror and bloodshed,” Gül told reporters in Istanbul after performing Ramadan bayram prayers at the Blue Mosque.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday the incident clearly proved that the BDP was tied to the PKK. Erdoğan asked sarcastically “where this affection comes from” and added: “As you see, the lawmakers hug [the PKK militants] as though they were their brothers. Their affection is at that highest degree. Similar scenes have been seen before” he said in Istanbul after performing Ramadan bayram prayers at the Süleymaniye Mosque. Erdoğan also slammed the CHP over the statements made by Aygün after he was released. Noting that Aygün did not describe the PKK militants as “terrorists,” Erdoğan said: “No wonder we say the CHP and the BDP are similar. They are the same. One is a different version of the other,” Erdoğan told reporters yesterday following bayram prayers. EU minister Egemen Bağış also described the CHP, BDP and PKK as “triplet souls.” Recalling Aygün’s kidnapping by the PKK militants, Bağış said: “We were worried by [Aygün’s abduction]. However, he apparently had a picnic [with the PKK militants]. Let Allah improve your affection. How close is that relation? They are triplet souls,” Bağış said in Istanbul.

Responding swiftly, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said Aygün had been blamed by the ruling party even though he was kidnapped by the PKK. Kılıçdaroğlu also blamed the government over the BDP deputies’ meeting with the PKK militants. “The PKK was there, BDP was there and journalists were there; where was the state? Does Erdoğan ask himself this question? The meeting occurred on Turkish soil; the state and the government was not there,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, for his part, described the BDP deputies’ meeting as “unacceptable and indefensible.” Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy group chair Oktay Vural also denounced the meeting as “shameful” and also said the incident was an attempt to legitimize the PKK.