As wildfires devastated large areas in Turkey’s southern province of Antalya, rumours began to circulate on social media that the fires were started by militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK, resulting in racist incidents against Kurdish people simply because of their looks, language or place of birth. Vigilante groups also began to emerge, setting up road blocks, stopping vehicles and checking if the occupants of the vehicles were Kurdish.
The head of the Human Rights Association Antalya branch, Erdal Girgil, spoke to MA on the incidents which targeted people simply for their Kurdish origin.
He started with a question regarding the road blocks by vigilantes, and went on to answer: “They’ve checked people’s IDs. What were they looking for? They were looking for the places of birth. And these places of birth, meaning… They were looking to see if these people were Kurdish…”
“This is a crime,” he continued. “If they blamed people just looking at their place of birth, they’ve committed a serious crime. This is a crime of racism; a crime of hatred.”
Girgil referred to an incident in which two Kurdish civilians were accused of starting a fire, and were then attacked by the crowd in the Manavgat district of Antalya:
“There were two civilians who were delivering water to help… They had delivered water in their van to help people who were in need of water. They took the water to a place where a fire nearby was raging. Then they become targets of a racist attack and barely survived. This happened because they were Kurdish.”
Girgil drew attention to other incidents in which the vigilantes made ID checks on passengers, like the ones in Manavgat and the Milas district of the western province of Mugla.
“These must be investigated,” he said. “The prosecutors must take action. There are pictures of these people in the press. They are carrying guns. Even if they have a permit, can they use their guns to block the road? No, they can’t.”
He concluded with a call: “If they made ID checks simply for identifying the place of birth, they should be prosecuted for acts of racism, for hate crimes.”