Beginning at 7 A.M, the raids- headed by the Istanbul counter-terrorist police unit, reportedly lasted 3 hours and resulted in 9 HDP party members, including the HDP Beyoğlu co-chair Rukiye Demir, being taken into custody and the confiscation of files from the office.
Commenting on the raid, lawyer, activist and HDP party member Levent Pişkin stated “Apparently, the attorney general decided to conduct this very arbitrary search raid concerning a murder case, which has nothing to do with our party or our district…Because of an injunction of secrecy on the murder file, we are not allowed the see the warrant. Yet another injunction of secrecy, more absence of the rule of law, more obstacles.”
Speaking outside the building during the raid, HDP Istanbul co-chair Cesim Soylu argued these raids were part of a campaign organized by the President, the Prime Minister and other AKP party leaders to tarnish the image of the HDP. He stated, “We are constantly faced with arbitrary treatment, with attacks on all sides. These raids end up suggesting a negative association with our party.”
Today’s raids were part of a larger and ongoing police campaign against the HDP. Police raids of HDP party member homes and offices have increased dramatically following the July 2015 elections in which HDP votes upset the parliamentary majority held by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Posting from her twitter account, Diyarbakır Parliament Representative Sibel Yiğitalp claimed in late August that since the July 7 elections, 1464 HDP members have been taken into custody. Her tweet included the phrase “Our elected officials are our freedom” with the hashtag “#Don’tTouchMyFreedom”
In one wide-scale arrest operation on October 2, 51 HDP party members were taken into custody by the Istanbul counter-terrorist police unit. Twenty four of those taken into custody were released after a brief investigation, with 27 individuals being sent to court for prosecution. However, only 15 of those prosecuted were arrested, charged on the grounds of “spreading PKK ideology and attracting new recruits.”
A similar raid was organized a few days later in Ankara, resulting in 24 HDP party members being taken into custody. Eight of them were released immediately after, and the remaining 16 were released without charges following an investigation.
As a result of the raids in Istanbul, a HDP-sponsored demonstration was organized to protest the police operations against HDP party members. The official banner of the demonstration was “We condemn these acts of political genocide,” with a number of HDP party leaders in attendance.
Speaking at the demonstration, HDP parliament member Pervin Buldan stated “Our friends and leaders are being taken into custody as an act of political genocide. The events unfolding in Cizre, Silvan, and Nusaybin remind us once again that the AKP mindset is trying to upset peace, freedom, and unity in our country. These acts of political genocide are also a part of their efforts.”
Buldan’s comments at the Istanbul demonstration regarding Cizre, Silvan and Nusaybin were likely referencing the weeklong curfews in effect at the time, similar to the 38-day and ongoing curfew in effect currently in the ancient Sur district of Diyarbakır, a predominantly Kurdish province in the Southeast.
The highly controversial curfews, enforced by the state in efforts to combat the PKK, have resulted in many civilian deaths, with the Turkish Human Rights Foundation estimating the civilian death toll at 130 in late December. The most recent civilian death came earlier today in Sur when 17 year old Rozerin Çukur was shot in the head while she was out in the street.
The curfews have also prompted international concerns, with the European Court of Human Rights demanding Turkey present a legal defence of the curfews, with a defence deadline set for January 8. The Court requested Turkey address three issues regarding the curfews; 1) the legal basis for the curfews, 2) whether the affected regions had access to sufficient health services and 3) whether there were mechanisms in place for those who wish to leave the affected regions to do so safely.