Osman Baydemir, MP from the People’s Democratic Party HDP and one of Turkey’s most popular Kurdish politicians. Photo: HDP

Osman Baydemir, MP from the People’s Democratic Party HDP and one of Turkey’s most popular Kurdish politicians. Photo: HDP

Posted by Ekurd Daily on October 28, 2016

HEWLÊR-Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— A prominent Kurdish politician and MP from a pro-Kurdish party in Turkey complained Thursday that anyone who espouses Kurdish rights is labeled a terrorist by the Turkish government.

“I was Diyarbakir’s Metropolitan Mayor for 10 years. I was elected by 55 percent of the electorate in my first term and 65 percent in my second term. Yet, I have always been introduced by Turkey as a terrorist,” said Osman Baydemir, a prominent MP with the pro-Kurdish HDP.

“The Turkish government regards anyone who espouses the rights of the Kurds and Kurdistan, protecting the current and future interests of Kurds, as a terrorist,” Baydemir said in comments to Rudaw on the sidelines of a conference in Erbil by the Middle East Research Institute (MERI).

The Kurdish MP also denied Turkey’s allegations that HDP mayors or officials had sent money to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey and has its military headquarters in the Qandil Mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 78-million population. A large Kurdish community in Turkey and worldwide openly sympathise with PKK rebels.

Osman Baydemir warned that “It is an outright lie that our co-mayors have sent money to Qandil. They want to change peoples’ opinion of us through lies. But they cannot continue doing this to us. We saw the destiny of Saddam Hussein and that of Moamer Gaddafi,” he said referring to the ousted leaders of Iraq and Libya. “They will have the same destiny as Saddam Hussein if they continue on their current policy,”

Tensions between the Turkish government and Turkey’s large Kurdish population escalated after police arrested two pro-Kurdish mayors on Tuesday over alleged connections to the PKK and an affiliated group, which led to large protests by HDP members and civil society organizations in Istanbul and Ankara the following day.

Turkish prosecutors launched a probe Thursday into pro-Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas after he condemned the detention of two mayors of the country’s biggest Kurdish city in Turkish Kurdistan.

Since July 2015, Turkey initiated a controversial military campaign against the PKK in the country’s southeastern Kurdish region after Ankara ended a two-year ceasefire agreement. Since the beginning of the campaign, Ankara has imposed several round-the-clock curfews, preventing civilians from fleeing regions where the military operations are being conducted.

Observers say the crackdown has taken a heavy toll on the Kurdish civilian population and accuse Turkey of using collective punishment against the minority.

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