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Murder of Kurdish man sparks accusations of discrimination in Turkey: report

Barış Çakan

The murder of a 20-year-old Kurdish man in Ankara has launched a wave of accusations of discrimination in Turkey over the mistreatment of the ethnic minority, The Guardian reported on Tuesday.

Barış Çakan was visiting a park with a friend in Ankara’s Etimesgut neighborhood on Sunday night when he asked three men to turn down the volume of the music playing from their car during the evening call to prayer. The friend told police that an argument ensued and Çakan was stabbed in the heart and killed, according to a statement from the Ankara Governor’s Office on Monday. Three suspects were arrested.

Initial news reports quoted a family member as saying that Çakan had been attacked because he had been listening to Kurdish-language music. While Çakan’s father said in later interviews that the assault was not triggered by Kurdish music, the racial overtones of the killing have led to an outpouring of anger on social media, particularly after a friend and another relative stepped forward on Tuesday to say the family had been pressured to cover up the reason for the fight.

Hundreds of messages of solidarity have appeared under the hashtag #BarisCakan, as well as comparisons with the killing of African American George Floyd at the hands of US police, which sparked the protests currently raging across the US over institutional racism.

“Those who plant the seeds of hatred and enmity in the public and those who ban even the discourse on peace, this is the result,” pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) official Meral Danış Beştaş said in a tweet, referring to the policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Comments from Interior Ministry spokesperson İsmail Çataklı, who said the crime was not racially motivated and that focusing on the racial dynamic is the work of “provocateurs,” have also led to allegations of state hypocrisy over the treatment of Turkey’s Kurdish population.

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