Violent protests lead to cancelation of BDP’s Black Sea tour

Violent protests lead to cancelation of BDP’s Black Sea tour

Violent protests lead to cancelation of BDP’s Black Sea tour

Hundreds of people gathered to attack the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies during their Black Sea tour in Sinop. AA photo

Violent protests staged in the Black Sea provinces of Sinop and Samsun on Feb. 18 and 19 against a delegation compromising of pro-Kurdish politicians has led to the cancelation of the remainder of the trip.

Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) lawmakers Sırrı Süreyya Önder, Sebahat Tuncel, Ertuğrul Kürkçü, as well as independent lawmaker Levent Tüzel, planned to go on to the provinces of Çorum, Ordu, Giresun and Trabzon to explain to people the recently launched “peace process.” However, the plan resulted in a right-wing backlash in keeping with the image of the Black Sea region as a hotbed of nationalism.

The BDP delegation began its trip on Feb. 17 in Çorum and no significant protests were staged. However, in Sinop on Feb. 18, an ultranationalist group attempted to attack the lawmakers at the city’s teacher’s lodge, where they were holding meetings. Police struggled to disperse the angry group, which threw stones and broke some of the windows of the building.

Some from the group attempted to enter the building but were barred by the police. The BDP deputies were later able to leave the city with a police escort.

In Samsun on Feb. 19, similar protests took place, with groups gathering in front of the hotel where the BDP deputies were holding a press conference and chanting slogans saying: “We don’t want the PKK in Samsun.”

BDP co-chair Gültan Kışanak denounced attacks and accused the Interior Ministry of not taking the necessary precautions, despite being informed about the tour beforehand. Describing the incidents as a “lynch attempt,” Kışanak also pointed to the fact that the Sinop governor was not in the city on Feb. 18, which indicated “irresponsibility.”

Kışanak also denounced the Sinop mayor, who was elected from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), for issuing provocative statements ahead of the BDP lawmakers’ trip.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggested that both CHP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) supporters were among the group that staged the threatening demonstration in Sinop.

“Whether you like them or not; they are the elected deputies of this country. You don’t have to follow their meeting there. You have to respect them as long as their meeting is legal,” Erdoğan said.

Despite labeling the BDP deputies’ trip to the region as part of a separatist campaign, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli voiced disapproval of the demonstration in Sinop.

“No matter what happens, showing utmost care against provocations, fights and conflicts will be and should be our local people’s manner of maturity and common sense,” Bahçeli said, underlining that the incidents in Sinop should not be repeated for the sake of brotherhood.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu did not comment on the issue, ignoring Erdoğan’s accusations. However, CHP Sinop lawmaker Engin Altay denied that the local mayor had commented on the visit as had been alleged. Speaking in Parliament, Altay said a district youth branches chair of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was among the organizers of the protests.

Releasing a written statement, Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek condemned the protests, describing them as “provocative.”

Everybody should respect the legal activities of political parties that are covered by legal insurance, no matter which part of the country they are held in, Çiçek said. “In addition, by taking the ongoing sensitive process into consideration, everybody should obey the laws and act more responsibly,” he said.

Interior Minister Muammer Güler, meanwhile, said an investigation into 14 people was now under way, adding that all deputies should be able to use their democratic rights to stage political activities across the whole country.

The necessary precautions have been taken in Samsun in order to prevent similar incidents, Güler said. “Of course, throughout this resolution process, we expect everybody to act with common sense both in their actions and their discourses,” he said.

In Adana and Afyonkarahisar, the provincial branches of the “Ülkü Ocakları” (Idealist Hearths), a youth organization with links to the MHP, released separate statements without mentioning the Sinop incident.

The Afyonkarahisar branch urged attention to “provocations,” particularly coming from universities in recent days, while the Adana branch said they would not be “trapped by provocations” by taking to the streets.

Meanwhile, BDP deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder said the groups attacking the delegation did not include MHP or AKP members, instead blaming the CHP for taking a provocative stance.