Members of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party are traveling to the capital Ankara from the southeastern and northwestern corners of the country to protest a government crackdown on the political movement that officials accuse of links to Kurdish militants.
A group of some 80 members of the People’s Democratic Party, or HDP - including several legislators - departed from the city of Edirne, near the border with Greece, on Monday, while a second group, numbering some 60, left Hakkari, near the border with Iraq, to demand an end to the government crackdown.
The two groups are scheduled to reach Ankara on Saturday, where they plan to hold a protest at a park near the Parliament.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government accuses the party of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. The HDP denies the accusation.
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On Monday, police dispersed a group of HDP supporters who had gathered near a prison complex on the outskirts of Istanbul before joining the group in Edirne. At least 10 people were detained, the party said.
Police also blocked the group in Edirne from starting their protest from outside of a prison where former HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas is incarcerated.
The demonstrations from Edirne and Hakkari come after two HDP legislators, Leyla Guven and Musa Farisoglullari, were stripped of their legislative seats and immunity earlier this month and imprisoned following their convictions on terror charges.
Last month, authorities detained four more elected HDP mayors and replaced them with government-appointed trustees. Some 45 other mayors have been removed from office since local elections in March 2019, and 21 of them have been imprisoned on terror-related charges. Several other HDP lawmakers have also been jailed alongside Demirtas.
“These obstructions, these bans will never deter us. They will never prevent our struggle for peace, democracy, justice and freedom,” said HDP co-chairwoman Pervin Buldan, as she launched the protest from Edirne.