A demonstration in Turkey. Photo: DIHA
ANKARA, Turkey – Four activists of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) were seriously injured in an attack by Turkish ultra-nationalists, as they were preparing a campaign for the release of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
BDP activists have been collecting signatures for a campaign called “Freedom for Ocalan,” which has not been without risks.
In the town of Gaziosmanpasa near Istanbul this week, several BDP activists were attacked by suspected supporters of the radical rightist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), known as the “Grey Wolves.”
“The attackers had guns, electric-shock batons, choppers, knives and other sharp objects,” Yasar Arat, co-chairperson of the Gaziosmanpasa branch of the BDP, told Rudaw.
Four activists were seriously injured during the attack and were taken to hospital, he said.
“About 30 or 40 MHP sympathizers attacked us while shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ the moment we got to the Gaziosmanpasa Square,” Arat recalled. “We had not even set up our booth or banners yet.”
Omer Delibas, another BDP campaigner, sustained serious injuries to his head, said Arat. “He has been in intensive care unit for three days,” he added. According to Arat, police arrived on the scene only after the confrontation was over.
“We went to the square to collect signatures to call an end to the war so that mothers would not cry anymore,” said Zubeyde Delibas, wife of the injured campaigner. “But all of a sudden they attacked and injured my husband. We did not even understand what was happening.”
Video footage showed that at least two of the attackers had fired their guns at BDP activists, before throwing away the firearms and fleeing the scene.
In a similar attack, suspected MHP supporters disrupted another campaign in the Kadikoy area of Istanbul last week.
The BDP is a Kurdish party with 36 seats in the Turkish parliament. Also, in provincial polls in March, it won a number of cities and municipalities in the country’s Kurdish southeast.
BDP leaders have played the role of mediator between Ankara and Ocalan, who is jailed on Turkey’s Imrali island.
Last year, Ankara and Ocalan began a peace process, which has been moving very slowly. Many Kurds hope to win the release of Ocalan, who has been imprisoned since his capture in 1999, through peaceful campaigns and legal means.
The attacks on Kurdish activists and campaigners are blamed mostly on members of the youth wing of the MHP.
PKK and MHP supporters have a history of mutual suspicion and regular confrontations across the country, particularly in Istanbul, which is home to millions of Kurds.
Kurdish activists have blamed the MHP’s “Grey Wolves” for the death of Kahraman Kaya, a 17-year-old high school student who was stabbed outside his school in Istanbul more than a year ago.