Attack on HDP, Turkish gov’t policy to oppress opposition
Deniz Poyraz, a Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) employee, was killed in an armed attack on the Kurdish issue-focused party’s İzmir province on June 17. Onur Gencer, who entered the building and fired randomly, was caught right after the attack. “I am not affiliated with anyone,” said the attacker, an expression similar to what Mehmet Ali Ağca, who killed journalist Abdi İpekçi on Feb 1, 1979, said. “I am not affiliated with anyone, I am an independent terrorist,” Ağca had said when he was caught. (The ultranationalist later shot and wounded Pope John Paul II on May 13, 1981, after escaping from a Turkish prison). Gencer also said, according to reports, that he held the attack “because he hated the PKK”. The tension in politics led to bloodshed after a long time.
HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar says the attack was not a random outrage. He said the party administration had a planned and publicly announced meeting of 40 people scheduled for the time of the attack. Sancar added that the meeting was canceled at the last moment, and he believed that the attacker started firing randomly as soon as he entered the building, and his aim might have been a much more bloody raid.
“The government is responsible for the attack,” Sancar said, reminding that the party has been constantly put into targes.
Following an attack on İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener in the Black Sea province of Rize late in March, President and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Tayyip Erdoğan “These are your better days,” addressing his political rival. Sancar called on Erdoğan to elaborate on his remarks that were interpreted by the opposition as a threat. HDP executive Mahfuz Güleryüz told Nuray Pehlivan from Gazete Duvar that they have had tips on an attack on the party building for months, and they informed both the Izmir Governor’s Office and the police department, but could not get any results. HDP lawmaker Hüdai Kaya said they spotted that the attacker was one of those trained by SADAT, the controversial Turkish private security contractor, to fight in Syria. Racist and discriminatory slogans, photos that show him posing with a gun while making the nationalist gray wolf sign can be seen on his social media account. All these also signal what the “voluntary civilians” who received war training in Syria can do when they return.
Condemnations, closure case
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said the attack was a “provocation.”
“We have seen this scenario before,” he said, extending his condolences to the “HDP community”.
In her condemnation, İYİ Party leader Akşener called on “those who fish in muddy waters” to “come to senses”.
Opposition parties see the raid as an attack not only on the HDP but also on the opposition in general, and as a continuation of the AKP-MHP alliance’s policy of suppressing the opposition.
The attack was also condemned by the AKP. However, both President Erdoğan and his ally MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli frequently make statements that equate the HDP with the outlawed PKK. (Contrary to this, some of the HDP voters also complain that the PKK abuses the votes they cast for HDP as a false endorsement of its violent actions.) Many politicians and mayors, such as HDP’s previous co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, are in prison on charges of PKK ties. The case into 2015 violence in the southeast, namely the Kobani case, continues in Ankara. The attempts of the ruling bloc to split the CHP-IYI Party alliance by identifying the HDP with the PKK, are also part of the effort to oppress the opposition. Still, the fact that the ruling bloc gradually loses votes according to the polls shows that HDP voters will have a significant role in the upcoming elections.
Double pressure on the HDP
On the other hand, a second case that seeks to shut down the HDP is before the Constitutional Court due to the insistence of MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli. Ayşe Sayın from BBC Turkish wrote that HDP has been discussing the options of “boycotting the elections” and “opposition to the opposition”. The HDP is under pressure from also the PKK. The Özgur Politika newspaper based in Germany publishes calls to the HDP to “withdraw from parliament”.
Developments such as the weakening of HDP’s parliamentary group –by stripping the lawmaker status of their members as we saw in the case of now prisoned Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu most recently– the case into the HDP and the creation of a political atmosphere that allows such armed attacks deepen the problems in democratic life.
This political atmosphere will harm only the opposition but also the government. History has proven that such pressure finally backfires. It is wrong.