Turkey in new clampdown on Kurdish opposition

Turkey in new clampdown on Kurdish opposition
2 min read
20 March, 2017
The Turkish government have arrested 13 Kurdish opposition politicians and taken over councils controlled by the critical HDP, according to a Human Rights Watch report.
Pro-Kurdish protests have been held in Europe [Getty]
Human Rights Watch has said Turkey's government has launched a massive clampdown on politicians and councils linked to a critical Kurdish-dominated leftist group.

Ankara has jailed 13 leaders and MPs from the Kurdish-led Peoples' Democratic Party and sister Democratic Regions Party over the past year, the human rights group has said.

The Turkish goverment has also taken over 82 municipalities in Kurdish areas, Human Rights Watch added, arresting and suspending HDP or DRP mayors on terrorism charges.

It comes as the government campaigns for a changes to the country's constitution, which will be put to a popular vote next month.

Ankara says the changes will transform Turkey into a more stable presidential system, but critics view the move as a power grab.

"It's deeply damaging to Turkey's democracy that the government is locking up the leaders and MPs of an opposition party that received five million votes in the last election," said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

"The fact that the curbs come during a vital national debate about the country's future is doubly disturbing."

Human Rights Watch condemned the Turkish clampdown which has seen co-leaders of the HDP Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag arrested along with 11 MPs.

In the Kurdish majority south-east of the country, the government has taken direct control of 82 councils and detained scores of mayors and deputies.

Ankara has used its emergency powers - gained from the July 2016 attempted coup - to take control of the councils and suspend mayors, the group said.

Eighty two of the 103 municipalities controlled by the Kurdish-dominated DBP have been removed due to alleged terrorism links.

This coincides with an intensified war between Kurdish fighters and the Turkish military which has devastated large parts of south-eastern Turkey.