Thousands of people joined a demonstration in London on Sunday afternoon in protest at Saturday’s bombing in Ankara, the Turkish capital.
Over 4,000 people gathered at Downing Street before marching up Whitehall and on to Piccadilly Circus, where they took part in a short sit-down protest. Thousands have joined a protest in Paris, and marches have also taken place yesterday and today in Turkey, where trade union federations are calling for a general strike on Monday and Tuesday.
Video: Patrick Ward
The protests follow the deaths of over 100 people on Saturday after two bombs exploded at a peace rally organised by trade unions. That attack took place in the run-up to a general election on 1 November, where the ruling AKP party is trying to regain the absolute majority it lost in the last election in June. In that election the left-wing and pro-Kurdish HDP gained 13% of the vote, overcoming for the first time the 10% threshold for representation in parliament – the party now has 80 MPs. As well as defending the rights of Kurdish people, HDP quotas mean that 50 percent of its candidates are women and 10% are LGBT.
The AKP have been doing everything they can to regain power and attack the HDP. In response to the bombing, the prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, suggested that Islamic State, Kurdish or far-left militants could be to blame. Veysel Eroglu, Minister for Forestry and Water, went further and blamed the demonstration organisers themselves for a bombing which killed many of their own members, stating that “our people need to be careful of such provocateurs that organise terrorist demonstrations in order to incite discord in social harmony.” The government’s repeated stress on the need for national unity must be seen in this light – the AKP are claiming that only they can maintain order in the country.
The government has also taken advantage of the situation in Syria. They have used the excuse of the threat from IS to launch attacks against Kurds. They have been able to get US approval for these attacks, because the Turkish government is allowing the US to use its military bases to attack IS inside Syria. As Erkin Erdoğan argued last month, the AKP are making cynical use of nationalism so as to gain votes.
HDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş has responded by pointing out that yesterday’s attack is only the latest in a series of murderous attacks on his organisation. In June, 4 people were killed and over 400 injured in a bombing at an HDP rally in the Kurdish city of Diyabakır. In July a suicide bomber killed 34 left activists in the Kurdish city of Suruç. No one has been arrested for these attacks. Demirtaş pointed out that the government imposed no security measures at the peace rally in Ankara on Saturday, attended by tens of thousands of people. As people attempted to deal with a hundred dead and five hundred wounded, police fired tear gas at them and refused to let ambulances enter the area.
Demirtaş laid the blame for the attacks at the door of the government: “We are dying every day. We’re the ones who die. We are the Kurds, we are the Turks. We, the children of this poor nation, are the ones that die! Not you. We know where your kids are and what they do. You are responsible for every death.” The attitude of the AKP, he stated, was that “We can kill anyone who stands up against us and cover it up.”
rs21 expresses its sympathies to the families and friends of those killed or injured yesterday. We stand in solidarity with HDP, with the struggle of the Kurdish people and with those fighting in Turkey for democracy and socialism.