The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is under increasing fire from the Turkish government and its nationalist ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), after raising questions over the cross-border military operation in Iraq.
Turkish opposition parties have been pressing the Turkish government for answers to the nature of the recent military operation on Mount Gare in Iraq which ended on 14 February with Turkish authorities breaking the news that thirteen Turkish prisoners of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – comprising captured Turkish soldiers, police officers and officers of the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT) – had been killed.
Whilst the Turkish authorities announced that it was the PKK who killed the thirteen prisoners, the PKK has rejected the claims and alleged that the Turkish armed forces used chemical weapons in Gare and air strikes which led to the deaths of the prisoners. The PKK has stated that it never intended to kill the prisoners, some of whom had been held as prisoners for several years.
Calling the operation a “failed-rescue”, opposition party criticisms of the killings of the prisoners have triggered heated debates in Turkey and created new challenges for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government and the alliance party nationalist ally, the MHP. HDP officials have criticized the government over its lack of transparency regarding the details of the killing of the prisoners.
The Good Party (İYİ Party) raised a parliamentary question that sought to pressurise the government into sharing more details about the purpose of the military operation in Iraq. Blaming President Erdoğan for carrying out an offensive “with drums and trumpets”, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), pressed the Erdoğan government to explain the “failure of the operation”.
Erdoğan and his nationalist partner Bahçeli in the MHP have begun to target the HDP more after the debates led by the pro-Kurdish opposition party were accompanied by criticisms by other opposition parties. HDP Co-Chair Pervin Buldan stated that the government is attacking the HDP “to cover up its failure in the Gare operation”. “The government has not responded to the question of why it failed to take a step to rescue those people as in the past”, she told her party’s parliamentary group on 23 February.
Summaries of proceedings against nine HDP MPs, including HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan, over the Kobane investigation have been prepared which may lead to a vote in the parliament to strip the HDP MPs of their immunity from prosecution. Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, HDP MP and human rights activist, was sentenced to two years and six months in prison under the charge of “making propaganda for the PKK”.
The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, shared his “grave concern” regarding the pressures that were being exerted on the HDP. “We are gravely concerned about the continuing pressure against the HDP and several of its members, which has materialised lately through arrests, replacing elected mayors – what seem to be politically motivated judicial proceedings and the attempt at lifting parliamentary immunities of Members of the Grand National Assembly”, he said. In total, 718 people, including local co-chairs and representatives, have been detained in country-wide operations launched in 40 provinces of the country within the scope of ‘an investigation against the HDP’.