Tensions erupted in Istanbul’s Alevi-majority Gazi neighbourhood as Turkish police launched a forceful crackdown on protestors rallying against Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, who was actively campaigning for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s reelection.
The confrontation unfolded after Soylu delivered a fiery speech from his election bus, targeting protestors who were mainly supporters of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). Addressing the demonstrators with acrimony in his voice, Soylu once again implied that the CHP has ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey deems a terrorist organisation. The minister further accused those making victory signs of terrorism propaganda.
The crowd, clearly displeased, responded with boos and jeers, prompting a swift and heavy-handed response from the police, who began apprehending those protesting Soylu. Several protestors have been arrested.
Despite the clashes, protests against the controversial interior minister continued as he visited local shopkeepers in the area. Chants demanding “rights, law, justice” echoed through the neighbourhood for an extended period, serving as a testament to the frustrations and grievances of the protesters. Soylu, seemingly unfazed by the unrest, concluded his interactions with the shopkeepers and swiftly left the neighbourhood.
Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) see the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as being an extension of the PKK. The Erdoğan administration accuses the president’s rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s CHP of “collaborating with terrorists” over both its talks with the HDP and Kılıçdaroğlu’s pre-election pledge to put a peaceful end to the Kurdish conflict in the country.
Statements of PKK leaders calling on Kurdish voters to put an end to the ruling AKP government have also been used repeatedly as ammunition in the propaganda war being waged by Turkey’s pro-government media.