A plainclothes policeman slapped a Kurdish politician during a scuffle at a protest in İstanbul on Sunday, sparking widespread condemnation and further demonstrations, Turkish media reported.
The İstanbul police on Sunday intervened in a protest in Kadıköy, where relatives of sick prisoners had gathered upon a call by several nongovernmental organizations defending the prisoners’ rights and demanded freedom for the ailing inmates.
During the protest, Artı TV cameraperson Mehmet Zeki recorded a Turkish police officer slapping Ferhat Encü, İstanbul co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who was also participating in the event.
Polis, HDP eski milletvekili ve İstanbul İl Eş Başkanı Ferhat Encü’ye tokat atıyor. pic.twitter.com/Rm3lEkpnQd
— Onur Öncü (@oencueonur) December 18, 2022
The police detained 33 people, including Encü and Zeki, who were both released later the same day, according to Turkish media reports.
The İstanbul Governor’s Office said in a written statement that Encü had insulted the police officers breaking up the protest and that a total of 70 people were taken into custody for attending an illegal demonstration.
The office further said that an investigation had been launched regarding the content of video footage that records Encü’s detention by the police.
“One day, [they] will be held accountable for these unlawful acts,” Encü said in a tweet after being released, referring to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the HDP, commented on the incident on social media.
“… the slap to Ferhat Encü will certainly not be forgotten by the Kurds. You haven’t seen a [real] slap yet. Wait for the ballot box [and] we will show it to you!” Demirtaş said on Twitter through his lawyers, referring to elections slated for June 2023.
Gırtlağına kadar pisliğe, suça bulaşmış bu iktidar haddini aşalı çok oldu.
Analarımıza yapılan bu saldırıyı ve Ferhat Encü'ye atılan tokadı Kürtler kesinlikle unutmayacak.
Siz daha tokat görmemişsiniz. Sandığı bekleyin, göstereceğiz!
— Selahattin Demirtaş (@hdpdemirtas) December 18, 2022
Meanwhile, police on Monday broke up a protest by a group of HDP officials, including the party’s co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar, who had gathered in front of the party’s Kadıköy district office to make a statement condemning the police’s ill-treatment of Encü, detaining at least 30 people, according to local media reports.
The ruling AKP, together with its ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has long portrayed the HDP as the political front of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey and much of the international community and has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
The HDP denies links to the PKK and says it is working to achieve a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish issue and is only coming under attack because of its strong opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 20-year rule.
Encü lost 11 of his relatives when 34 young Kurdish civilians, all male, were killed on Dec. 28, 2011 when Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) jets bombed them after they were mistaken for terrorists from the PKK near the Uludere district of Şırnak in southeastern Turkey.
HDP Co-chairperson Buldan said in a statement on Monday that it was not only Encü but the people of Uludere who were given that slap by the policeman days before the 11th anniversary of the Uludere incident.
The Turkish government is accused of covering up the tragedy and not bringing a single person to court due to the bombing of the civilians.