The narrative spun by Turkey’s interior minister around last week’s bombing attack in Mersin, southern Turkey, suffered a blow after a Kurdish militant he had accused of carrying out the attack released a video denying her involvement.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu had released the name of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant Dilşah Ercan, code-named Zozan Tolan, as one of the perpetrators of a suicide bomb attack on a police station which killed one police officer.
Pro-government media outlets quickly seized on the fact that Ercan, formerly a journalist, had been named in a 2013 report by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) as one of many journalists earlier jailed under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), trying to imply that the CHP had some sympathy with her alleged terrorist actions.
But Ercan’s filmed statement revealed that she was alive and well, throwing shade on Soylu for his insinuations regarding the opposition party.
Speaking in front of a wall draped in PKK colours and an image of the group’s leader, Abdullah Öcalan, Ercan said she was working to “call the fascist AKP regime to account” and was still on duty.
Speaking to opposition-leaning outlet Halk-TV, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said state sources had already known and informed him that the ministry had wrongly named Ercan before the militant made her statement.
“We knew that it was not her, but we did not say so. It would not have been suitable to say so,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding that he had not made a statement before because the information had come to him confidentially from a source within the state.
Turkey’s next elections are due in 2023, and with years of economic turmoil dragging support for the AKP to a historic low, the ruling party is expected to use every advantage it has over the opposition.
In previous campaigns, the AKP and its allies have frequently accused Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP of links to terrorist organisations. Among the supposed evidence for this was the opposition party’s willingness to cooperate with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the run-up to the 2019 local elections.
The AKP’s peace process with the PKK fell apart in 2015, after the HDP’s strong electoral performance deprived the ruling party of a majority for the first time since it took power in 2002. In the snap elections that followed in the same year, the AKP regained its majority as the country resumed its decades-long conflict with militants in its mostly Kurdish southeast.
Ercan, formerly a journalist, said in her filmed statement that the AKP had “eliminated the possibility of telling the truth to the public in Turkey and Kurdistan and conducting a legal, democratic struggle.”
This realisation, she said, had driven her to join the PKK and “do her duty” to hold the ruling party to account.
But the HDP’s former leader, Selahattin Demirtaş, defended the Kurdish movement’s democratic struggle for rights in Turkey in a series of tweets from his cell in Edirne Prison, where he is in prison on charges of terrorism.
“Insisting on democratic politics and peace politics are basic principles for us. No one should expect us to take a step back,” said Demirtaş.
“We will defend our principles in all circumstances, and we will continue to voice the people’s demand for a democratic solution and peace with all means available to us. We will destroy fascism, we will definitely win,” he said.