“Is the palace trying to drag Turkey into a civil war?” asked Idris Baluken, a parliamentarian from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) during a press conference in Diyarbakir on Aug. 20, reported Hurriyet daily.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been igniting the conflict between Turkish security forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), suggested the parliamentarian. “Just like it was the case in the 1990’s, a Kurdish and Turkish conflict with no return is being ignited. This concept is totally materialized at the palace table,” Baluken was quoted as saying.
More than 2,500 people have been detained in the country in raids over the past few weeks, according to Agence France-Presse (AFG). While Turkish officials have claimed that the raids targeted suspected members of the PKK, ISIS, and the Marxist Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party Front (DHKP-C), AFG reported that the overwhelming majority of detainees were Kurds suspected of being PKK members.
Most recently, 41 people were detained on Aug. 20, in an operation against DHKP-C in Turkey’s Mediterranean province of Mersin, according to Hurriyet daily.
A day earlier, Kurdish rebels detonated a bomb on a road in southeast Turkey killing at least eight soldiers, reported Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency. The report claims the bomb went off on a highway in the heavily Kurdish-populated province of Siirt as a Turkish military vehicle was passing by.
Meanwhile, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli urged authorities to declare martial law in parts of Turkey where “terrorism is hitting a peak,” reported Hurriyet on Aug. 20. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu quickly rejected the demand by the MHP leader.
Violence was also felt in Istanbul on Aug. 19, when assailants threw a grenade at a guard post at the city’s historic Dolmabahce Palace (built by master Armenian architect Garabet Balyan, a member of the Balyan family of Ottoman court architects) and then opened fire, reported Bloomberg News. The attack set off a gun battle in the city center, though no deaths have been reported. Two members of DHKP-C were detained. According to the Anadolu news agency, the detained were the same people who attacked the ruling Justice and Democracy Party’s (AKP) Istanbul headquarters on Aug. 8.
In an Aug. 18 press release, the Kurdish National Congress (KNK) called on the international community, NGOs, the press, and human rights organizations “to condemn the dirty war that the Turkish state is engaging in towards the Kurds.” In the statement, the KNK claimed that the village of Kocakoy in the district of Lice-Hani in Diyarbakir and other surrounding villages are under heavy shelling by the Turkish military, and that several civilians have been injured, an unknown number of them killed.
“After heavy shelling of civilian locations, the Turkish soldiers entered the village of Kocakoy, targeting homes by shooting and burning houses with families still inside. Local sources have reported that many people in these houses are killed and seriously injured. The Turkish army then proceeded to violently force an evacuation of these villages,” read the statement.
The crimes being committed against the Kurdish population in Turkey, the KNK said, are clearly human rights violations, and the Turkish regime must be held accountable by international bodies and organizations.
The PKK on Aug. 18 announced it had formed a democratic, autonomous region in Turkey’s Dersim province, according to the Kurdish news agency Rudaw. The militant group set up extensive checkpoints on the province’s main road, and in a video released by Rudaw, PKK fighters can be seen controlling road traffic and searching vehicles. Although reports indicate that the PKK has declared autonomy in the region, the group has not yet confirmed the news.
“We, as guerrillas, under the right of self-defense for ourselves and our nation, declare democratic autonomy in Dersim,” said a fighter in the video.
Also on Aug. 18, reports surfaced that the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (DBP) had declared self-governance in the districts of Sur and Silvan in the province of Diyarbakir. The following day, the co-mayors of the two districts—Sur co-mayors Seyid Narin and Fatma Şik Barut, and Silvan co-mayors Yuksel Bodakci and Meliksah Teke—as well as Democratic Regions Party (DBP) representative Ali Riza Cicek were detained by police.
The co-mayors of the Hakkari municipality, Dilek Hatipoglu and Nurullah Ciftci, were also detained in an operation on the morning of Aug. 20, after claims of a declaration of autonomy in that municipality.
There has been constant unrest throughout Turkey after a suicide bombing on July 21 in Suruc targeted members of the Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) Youth Wing and the Socialist Youth Associations Federation (SGDF). The young activists were giving a press statement on the reconstruction of Kobane, Syria, when the bombing took place.
Four days following the Suruc attack, two Turkish police officers were killed by the PKK’s military wing, which claimed the officers had collaborated with ISIS in the Suruc bombing. Since then, more than 40 Turkish police and military officers have died in attacks throughout the country, according to several Turkish news outlets.
On July 25, the PKK announced that its fragile truce with Turkish authorities had lost all meaning after Turkish warplanes attacked PKK camps in northern Iraq a week before. Turkish authorities claimed the strikes hit shelters, bunkers, caves, storage facilities, and “other logistical points” of the PKK in northern Iraq, including the Qandil Mountains, where the group’s military leadership is based, reported RFE/RL.
Peace talks between the Turkish government and Kurdish leaders, which began in 2012, have suffered with the conflict in Syria and the rise of ISIS. In late 2012, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) had been visiting imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan to find a solution to the Kurdish-Turkish conflict. After months of negotiations with Turkish authorities, Ocalan called for a ceasefire and an end to armed struggle that included disarmament and withdrawal from Turkey. In September 2014, however, the PKK announced an end to the ceasefire in reaction to Turkey’s harsh treatment of Kurdish refugees caught in the Syrian Civil War.