A video released by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has revealed that its lawmakers have brought the issue of 13 Turkish nationals who were recently killed in an outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) camp in northern Iraq to the public agenda at least seven times since December 2015.
On Sunday the Turkish government accused the PKK, listed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and the EU, of executing 13 Turkish nationals — mainly members of the security forces — whom they had held captive in northern Iraq.
The bodies of the 13 hostages were discovered by Turkish soldiers in a cave in the Gara region of northern Iraq, where Ankara launched an operation against PKK militants on Feb. 10, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said.
The video on Monday shared on the HDP’s official Twitter account shows seven different times when the party’s lawmakers brought the issue of Turks held captive by PKK militants to the public agenda through parliamentary inquiry requests, parliamentary questions and press conferences and speeches in parliament since December 2015.
“Our party and MPs have repeatedly voiced the demands of the families of the hostages in parliament and at press conferences, calling [on the AKP government] to ensure their safe return. If the ruling party is looking for someone to hold responsible [for the death of 13 hostages], the answer is in the video below,” HDP said in the tweet.
A parliamentary question drafted by HDP lawmaker Nimetullah Erdoğmuş in June 2019 is seen in the video asking the Defense Ministry if they have engaged in any official or unofficial attempts to bring back the 13 Turkish security force members held captive by PKK.
The video also shows İdris Baluken, another HDP deputy, accusing the ruling AKP of purposefully not taking any concrete steps to safely get the hostages back from the PKK, during a press statement in December 2015.
“They know they could get those [hostages] back [safely] within a week if they wanted to. But they don’t. It wouldn’t serve their purposes. Do those children have to die for them [AKP] to pay attention to their families?” Baluken asked.
The HDP, which has long been accused of links to the PKK by the AKP government and its far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has come under fire once again following the killing of the hostages.
Turkish police on Monday detained 718 people including politicians from the HDP on terrorism charges, while investigations were launched into MPs Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu and Hüda Kaya — also prominent human rights activists — over their remarks critical of the Turkish military operation in northern Iraq that resulted in the death of the 13 hostages.
Since 2016 the Turkish government has arrested dozens of HDP elected and party officials, raising concerns among Western countries.
Although some of them were kidnapped by the PKK as early as 2015, the hostages had found little or no coverage in the Turkish media, prompting widespread criticism on social media as to why the Turkish government had not tried to rescue the hostages earlier.
On Sunday the pro-Kurdish party expressed “deep sadness” over the deaths of the 13 Turks in Iraq, calling on the PKK to free its remaining prisoners.