Turkish opposition warns of impact of purges

Head of pro-Kurdish party says rise of nationalist sentiment is harming peace process

A chance to revive a wrecked peace process with Kurdish rebels has been missed as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan taps nationalist sentiment to consolidate his support after a failed military coup, the head of the pro-Kurdish opposition has said.

Decrees during a state of emergency, including purges of tens of thousands of suspected coup plotters, may threaten the wider opposition, Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairman of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), also said in an interview.

The failed intervention by a faction of the military to overthrow the government on July 15th killed more than 240 people and posed the gravest threat yet to Erdogan’s 13 years in power before it was quickly put down by loyalist forces.

The government says the coup’s mastermind is the reclusive Fethullah Gulen (75), an Islamic preacher living in Pennsylvania, whose followers in the bureaucracy and security forces conspired to topple Erdogan and abolish parliament. He has denied any involvement in the coup attempt and has denounced it.


The coup’s aftermath saw a short-lived lull in violence in the mainly Kurdish southeast, where thousands have been killed since a peace process, once spearheaded by Erdogan, collapsed in 2015.

Neither the state nor the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) appears ready to parlay that into peace, Demirtas said.

“We have not seen any positive signals from either side ... that this will be an opportunity for resolution,” Demirtas said.

“We could have used the coup as an opportunity for the peace process ...but Erdogan does not see this crisis as a way to democratise,” said Demirtas, who also blames the Gulen movement for the coup attempt, as do other party leaders in parliament.

Prosecution of lawmakers

Erdogan did put aside acrimony with other party leaders for talks in a sign of national unity after the coup, but excluded Demirtas because of the HDP’s alleged links to the outlawed PKK. The snub was aimed at stoking nationalism, Demirtas said.

The HDP, parliament’s third-biggest party, denies direct links with the autonomy-seeking PKK and promotes a negotiated end to the 32-year insurgency that has killed 40,000 people.

The post-coup crackdown has caused concern among Turkey’s Western allies, who worry innocent people are among the 60,000 fired or detained for suspected links with Gulen. The state of emergency imposed on July 21st allows Erdogan to rule by decree.

"We have concerns emergency rule may increasingly be used against the true opposition in Turkey, those outside the Gulen movement," Demirtas said, adding it was "extremely suspect" the 100 or so journalists in detention or awaiting arrest were involved.

Some 10,000 soldiers have also been detained, which has raised concerns about a security vacuum as NATO member Turkey battles the PKK as well as Islamic State in Syria next door.

Among them are generals who commanded anti-PKK operations. Their removal does not indicate a dovish turn, Demirtas said.

“Erdogan...consistently provided political support to the generals who fueled this war,” he said.

Demirtas echoed other critics who point to Erdogan’s previous alliance with Gulen, with whom he once shared compatible Islamist visions for Turkey.

On Saturday, violence flared again when 35 PKK rebels were killed trying to storm a base in Hakkari province after clashes nearby killed eight soldiers, officials said.

On Friday, Erdogan condemned Western countries for failing to show solidarity with Turkey over the recent failed coup, saying those who worried over the fate of coup supporters instead of Turkish democracy could not be friends of Ankara.

Erdogan also rejected Western criticism of the purges, and suggested some in the United States were on the side of the plotters.

“The attitude of many countries and their officials over the coup attempt in Turkey is shameful in the name of democracy,” Erdogan told hundreds of supporters at the presidential palace in the Turkish capital.

“Any country and any leader who does not worry about the life of Turkish people and our democracy as much as they worry about the fate of coupists are not our friends.”

Erdogan also criticised the European Council and the European Union, which Turkey aspires to be a part of, for their failure to pay a visit to offer condolences, saying their criticism was "shameful".

- Reuters