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A picture of Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan.
Image: Getty Images/AFP/A.Altan

Erdogan pledges Kurdish crackdown

March 16, 2016

Combating terrorism is Turkey's highest priority, even higher than the rule of law, Turkish President Erdogan has said. Following a recent bomb attack in Ankara, he has pledged to crack down on Kurdish dissidents.


"Democracy, freedom and the rule of law," have "absolutely no value any longer," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told local leaders in Ankara on Wednesday.

"Those who stand on our side in the fight against terrorism are our friend. Those on the opposite side, are our enemy," he said in the televised comments, according to DPA news agency.

Turkey will employ "an iron fist against terrorism" and "fight Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants," Erdogan told a televised gathering of local district leaders in Ankara Wednesday.

The president also made critical remarks about the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which has 80 seats in parliament.

It's all about Erdogan.
Image: Getty Images/AFP/O.Kose

"Wherever you run, our soldiers, police and village guards will find you there and do what is necessary," the president said.

Turkey is also working on widening the definition of a "terror crime" to cover those who use the media "to support or praise acts of violence," a senior official from the AKP said Wednesday. Erdogan said Monday that the country's anti-terrorism laws should be widened further.

Tensions rising

The call comes as tension between the authorities and many in the Kurdish minority are growing over the military's campaign against rebels from the PKK in the southeast.

Erdogan also said Wednesday that some arms confiscated from the PKK, the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), and its armed wing, the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), had come from Russia and the West, including the US.

While Washington recognizes the PKK as a terrorist group, it has strong ties with the YPG, and provides air support to the group, widely seen as one of the most effective ground forces fighting the Islamic State in Syria.

Turkey launched air strikes against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq on Monday after a bomb attack that killed 37 people in Ankara. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said evidence "almost certainly" pointed towards the banned PKK Kurdish separatist group. However, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Lifting Kurdish MPs' immunity

Turkey's parliament has set up a committee to consider lifting the immunity of five members of parliament (MPs) from the HDP, including party leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag. This would make it possible to try them over their call for Kurdish autonomy.

Erdogan called on parliament to "swiftly" end immunity from prosecution for pro-Kurdish lawmakers.

"I no longer see as legitimate political actors the members of a party which is operating as a branch of the terrorist organization," Erdogan said, repeating his claim that the HDP is a front for the outlawed PKK.

Turkish media reported that a simple majority in a vote in parliament - where Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) holds over half the seats - would be enough to strip the MPs of their immunity.

A powerful Syrian Kurdish political party said Wednesday that it planned to declare a federal region in northern Syria, across the border from Turkey. Erdogan said Turkey would not support any form of Kurdish self-rule in the country.

jh/kms (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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