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Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party calls for march after arrest of mayors

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Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party calls for march after arrest of mayors

Pro Kurdish protests in Istanbul in 2016
Photo: AP Photo/Emrah Gurel

In protest of the arrest of two Kurdish mayors on terrorism charges, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) will begin a five-day intercity march toward Ankara today.

Over the past four years, at least 23 HDP mayors in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast, including the party’s two former co-leaders, have been imprisoned and others have been ousted from their elected offices. The purge of the HDP, accelerated by the collapse of the Turkish-Kurdish peace process, stems from the government’s association of the party with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Ankara has deemed a terrorist organisation.

In an effort to curb the march, the government imposed a temporary ban on public gatherings and intercity travel in key cities en route to Ankara. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s increasingly nationalistic policies—such as its alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party and its support for the Afrin offensive in 2018—are isolating Turkey’s Kurdish population and fueling the very grievances that have historically contributed to PKK terror.

As the AKP struggles to cope with the country’s economic decline and the opposition’s recent calls to hold an early election, expect that its Kurdish policy will become even more hardline in the medium- to long-term.

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