Tension over clashes in southeast Turkey spreads to parliament

Tension over clashes in southeast Turkey spreads to parliament

Tension over clashes in southeast Turkey spreads to parliament

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Lawmakers from Turkey’s two opposition parties and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) engaged in a heated debate on Jan. 20 over the latest clashes in the southeastern town of Cizre, which has been under curfew for 39 days.

The debate sparked hours after Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said a committee of 15 civilians, including HDP Şırnak deputy Faysal Sarıyıldız, took refuge in a building’s basement in Cizre after they went to the town, besieged by clashes between Turkish security forces and outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, to take care of civilian casualties.

Urging immediate government action on the latest developments in Cizre, Demirtaş also said the committee was subjected to gunfire and new casualties, including Refik Tekin, an award-winning journalist working at private broadcaster İMC, from gunfire purportedly shot by security forces.

“A great crime is being committed in Cizre right now. Our deputies, deputy mayor and a civilian group were subjected to gunfire. They were going to take care of the wounded with the approval of the district governor. The situation is vital,” Demirtaş said, speaking outside parliament in the Turkish capital on Jan. 20. 

“There are 10 wounded stuck in a basement. They are hemorrhaging. We heard about a ceasefire after our friends talked to Interior Minister Efkan Ala. Ambulances, however, are not able to take the wounded out,” he added.

Late on Jan. 20, lawmakers from main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the HDP engaged in a fierce debate with ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers over the casualties in a general assembly of the Turkish parliament, headed by HDP Deputy Group Chair Pervin Buldan.

The debate in parliament lasted hours as CHP and HDP lawmakers asked the government for information on casualties and the ruling party’s lawmakers accused the opposition parties of supporting terrorism. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan along with his inner circle and leading AKP figures have long accused opposition lawmakers, journalists, academics and civilians of the same allegation.

Upon Demirtaş’s remarks, several administrative figures and deputies from the HDP asked Turkish Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman and the Interior Ministry to take action on the casualties. 

Deputy Interior Minister Sebahattin Öztürk assured the delegates that a group of seven civilians, three of whom were injured, would be transferred to a safe place. The delegates reportedly did not leave the ministry until receiving news from Cizre. 

The same day, Deputy Prime Minister Lütfi Elvan said at 5 p.m. that the committee, including Sarıyıldız and several district deputy mayors, were taken to the local municipality building while the injured among them were taken to a hospital.