31 HDP officials detained ahead of party congress due to opposing Afrin offensive

by Gokcan Aydogan    


Turkey has ordered the arrest of 31 people including the co-leader of the leftist alliance Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) over opposition to the military's offensive in Syria.

Since the launch of the campaign in northwest Syria's Afrin nearly three weeks ago, authorities and especially Turkey's President Erdogan have said they would arrest those who criticise or oppose it. So far, some 600 people have been detained for protests or for social media posts against the offensive.

The Ankara prosecutor's office as saying the 31 suspects now facing arrest were accused of seeking to stir street protests and clashes under the guise of opposition to the Afrin offensive.

According to Mezopotamya Agency, Revolutionist Party Chair Musa Piroglu, Socialist Solidarity Platform Co-spokesperson Kezban Konukcu, Left-Green Party Co-chairs Naci Sönmez and Eylem Tuncaeli, Sociality Party of the Oppressed (ESP) Deputy Chair and Socialist Women's Assembly Spokesperson Fadime Celebi, Socialist Refoundation Party (SYKP) Co-chair Ahmet Kaya, Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Party Assembly member Orhan Celebi and Federation of Socialist Youth Association (SGDF) member Ozancan Sarı were detained in home raids.

Among them were Serpil Kemalbay, the co-leader of the HDP. The HDP, parliament's second-largest opposition party, is the only major political party to oppose the campaign - dubbed "Operation Olive Branch" - against the Kurdish YPG militia in Afrin.

The party is scheduled to hold its annual congress in Ankara on Sunday.

HDP party spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen told the Evrensel daily that the detentions were politically motivated and aimed at preventing the party congress from taking place. Noting that similar efforts were made in the past, Bilgen said: “This will not result in submission. To the contrary, it will lead to the standing up for the congress process with more determination.”

The HDP's other co-leader, Selahattin Demirtas, is in jail over alleged links to Kurdish militants and is among many leading members of the party imprisoned on similar charges, which they have denied.

The government has arrested 11 HDP deputies, including the party’s co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, 1,473 members of HDP and Democratic Regions Party (DBP) and also has seized the administration of 63 municipalities since failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.