US expresses ‘deep concern’ about detention of Kurdish politicians

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State Department Spokesman John Kirby. / AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN

US State Department Spokesperson John Kirby at the regular press briefing on Friday said the United States was “deeply concerned” at the detentions and arrests of Kurdish lawmakers while also condemning an explosion in Diyarbakır perpetrated by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that killed nine people and injured scores of others.

Regarding a crackdown on the Kurdish opposition in Turkey, Kirby read a prepared statement expressing concern over the overnight raids on the homes of deputies from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and their subsequent detention and criticizing the restricted access to the Internet imposed on the country by the Turkish government on Thursday night, while the operations against the deputies were under way.

He said US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Ümit Yalçın and made clear “that when democracies pursue legal action against an elected representative, they must do so in a manner that reinforces the public’s confidence in rule of law.”

When pressed by reporters present at the briefing to elaborate on the US position regarding recent developments in Turkey, Kirby reiterated several times that he was not going to give Turkey a “letter grade” but that the country was “still a democracy” and refused to say whether the arrests of the Kurdish legislators constituted behavior befitting a member of NATO, whose principles the country is bound to uphold.

Asked why concerns expressed by the Obama administration had found so little resonance in Turkey and if the US bore any of the blame for the current situation, Kirby said the United States and many other nations had been voicing concerns and that there was no way to know why the Turkish government wasn’t listening. He said the US would continue its dialogue with Turkey and would also continue to support its democratically elected government.

Kirby also declined to comment on whether Washington feels if the situation will lead to more risk to the Kurdish population of Turkey or if their voices had been silenced and made reference to “driving the flow of the democratic river through Ankara.”

Earlier in the day, Tom Malinowski, the assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, wrote on his Twitter account that the US is deeply troubled over the detention of the deputies and restriction to the Internet in the country. Malinowski also urged Turkey to restore information access to its citizens.

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