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Kurdish Businesses, Individuals Are Latest Targets of Angry Turkish Mobs

Hundreds of attacks by Turkish nationalist mobs on Kurdish-friendly parties, Kurdish businesses, and even knowing Kurdish individuals in the wake of the nation’s struggle against the Marxist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terror group threaten the peaceful coexistence of Turks and Kurds, leaders warn.

Zaman, a Turkish newspaper with a history of criticizing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, reports that civilians have reported nearly 150 individual attacks by “rioters”—mostly identified as Turkish nationalists—on Kurdish businesses, individuals in mixed communities known to be Kurdish, and those believed to support the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a Kurdish-friendly party. Both physical attacks on individuals and acts of “vandalism” on property identified as related to Kurds have been reported.

Experts fear that such attacks will lead young Kurds to become active members of the PKK or commit individual attacks against Turkish police or civilians. “Such attacks could cause an emotional detachment [towards Turkey and Turks] in Kurdish citizens,” Mehmet Özcan, chairman of the Ankara Strategy Institute, told Zaman.

The attacks reported in Zaman are believed to be separate from those reported by the head of the HDP, Selahattin Demirtaş, in a press conference last week. Demirtaş asserted to reporters that he had received reports of more than 400 attacks on HDP headquarters, regional party leaders, and public HDP events between September 7 and September 9. Of those, the largest—in Ankara—involved a crowd of hundreds trying to break into HDP headquarters and ransack the office.

AKP officials have often accused the HDP of being allied with the PKK terrorist group, an assertion Demirtaş has flatly and repeatedly denied. While many of its MPs are Kurdish, they also boast Christians and Turkish Muslims among their ranks.

In response to the more recent attacks on Kurds generally, Demirtaş is demanding the AKP take a more vocal stand against violence. “If all the ways to peace have been blocked or if there was no possibility of resolving the problems via dialogue, we could understand the current security-based policies [of the AKP],” he said, “However, there is a deep desire for peace and a longing for peace among the public.”

The HDP itself released a separate statement, blaming the AKP for dragging Turkey “into a great spiral of violence in the care of the AKP, which couldn’t get the results it desired in the elections.”

Attacks by Turkish nationalist mobs have not been limited to Kurdish people or Kurdish-friendly institutions. Media have taken a large percentage of the hit. Hurriyet, a daily newspaper that has published anti-Erdoğan columns in the past, was attacked twice last week by crowds of hundreds attempting to break into their offices and attack their editors. The crowds, shouting “Allahu akbar,” broke the glass doors of their Istanbul offices with stones and nearly broke into the Ankara offices, surveillance camera footage shows.

In response to the attacks, the Turkish government is investigating Hurriyet itself for allegedly having misquoted Erdoğan in a tweet.

The PKK, meanwhile, continues its attacks on Turkish police and military. Most recently, Kurdish news outlet Rudaw reports that, on Sunday, the PKK detonated a car bomb at a police checkpoint in Sirnak, killing two officers and wounding five. Sirnak is currently under a 7PM curfew following that attack. It is believed that more than 100 police officers have been killed since hostilities resumed this summer between PKK terrorists and the Turkish government.

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