Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Bloody Weekend, A Riotous Week

PHOTO from Radikal

Predominantly Kurdish cities throughout the southeast are in an uproar this week after clashes with PKK fighters attempting cross the border from northern Iraq resulted in the death of 12 militants. PKK news sources claim five Turkish soldiers were killed in retaliation. Major fighting has been taking place on the border since the Turkish military launched a large-scale operations on Thursday.

According to news reports, three of the bodies were not collected by the Turkish Armed Forces and returned to their families, as is usually the practice. In an effort to retrieve the bodies, a group of approximately people marched from Sirnak province over the Iraqi border, where they got into a confrontation with the Turkish military. The conflict was defused by local officials, after which the military retrieved the bodies to in the end return them to relatives.

Just one month before elections, Kurdish AKP deputy Galip Ensarioglu accused the powers-that-be of using the clashes as a means to stoke ultra-nationalist sentiment and keep the MHP above the 10% threshold. The AKP is attempting to win voters from MHP's usual constituency in an effort to have the part fall below the threshold, the occurrence of which would help secure an AKP super-majority.

UPDATE I (5/17) -- Bianet reports that 47 people were detained on Sunday night in Hakkari (like Sirnak, also on the border with Iraq) after protests there. There were also wide-scale protests in Diyarbakir and Istanbul. In Istanbul, 1,000 people assembled outside Galatasary Lisesi on Istiklal. Bianet also reports that Turkish military officers today fired upon a high school in Cizre, a town in Sirnak, after students began to protest and shout pro-PKK slogans.

Radikal reports that Sirnak governor Vahdettin Ozkan requested Gen. Mustafa Bakici to collect the bodies, but that the general refused on the grounds that the people should "experience the power of the state." There are also allegations that the Turkish military insensitively called BDP offices and told them to come pick up the bodies of the militants. None of this has been confirmed. BDP deputy Gulten Kisanak conveys her narrative of what happened here. It all seems like an incredibly confusing incident with plenty of politics on both sides.

Prime Minister Erdogan is set to hold an election rally in Siirt on Thursday.

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