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TURKISH President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was accused today of being responsible for a bloodbath as opposition supporters were killed by ruling party thugs just 10 days before landmark elections.
At least five people were killed and nine injured in violent attacks yesterday after supporters of Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate Ibrahim Halil Yildiz marched provocatively through the Turkish border town of Suruc armed with heavy weapons.
Ruling party members were accused of campaigning “while armed like thugs or mafia,” with their only means of convincing people being “guns, violence and intimidation.”
They are reported to have opened fire after an argument with shopkeeper Celal Senyasar, known for his closeness to the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), over a red, green and yellow banner — colours associated with Kurdish culture.
Mr Senyasar was killed after telling the AKP supporters: “We will not vote for you” and traders intervened with wooden sticks and knives after he was slapped by the candidate’s brother Mehmet Ali Yildiz.
The candidate’s brother was shot dead in the ensuing violence, which continued at the local hospital.
HDP supporter Mehmet Senyasar, the shopkeeper’s brother, who had been taken to the hospital wounded, was beaten to death with an oxygen tank and his father Esvet Senyasar was badly beaten by AKP supporters.
The attacks took place just a day after Mr Erdogan told a closed meeting of neighbourhood leaders to target the HDP to stop them getting above the arbitrary 10 per cent threshold required to get MPs elected to the Turkish parliament.
“You know who is in your neighbourhoods, do what is necessary,” the AKP leader reportedly said.
HDP presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas appealed for calm in a message from his prison cell, where he has been held on trumped-up terrorism charges since November 2016.
“Our citizens must not fall for provocations and must keep their cool. You must not allow victory to those who attempt to bring oppression, violence and blood into these elections.
“Nothing can be more valuable than a human life,” he said.
Democracy hangs on a knife edge in Turkey, with next weekend’s presidential and parliamentary elections some of the most critical in the country’s history, offering a stark choice between “peace, freedom and democracy” or “authoritarianism or war.”
The snap vote follows a rigged referendum last year which saw Turkey change from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential system and is being held under a state of emergency which has been in place since a failed coup of July 2016.
The changes have been branded “fascism via the ballot box,” granting the president unprecedented powers, including the ability to dissolve parliament and rule by decree.
Suruc was the scene of a tragedy in 2015 when 33 young people were killed in a bomb blast while preparing to take aid to the Syrian city of Kobane in solidarity trip.
But the attack, along with a bombing that killed more than 100 people at an HDP peace rally in Ankara, was seen by many as government-sponsored terror ahead aimed at destabilising opposition groups ahead of elections.
Former HDP co-chair Figen Yuksekdag warned at the time: “No force can act in the Suruc area without the knowledge of the state or the MIT,” the National Intelligence Organisation.
HDP officials gathered in Suruc yesterday and sent their condolences to the families of those killed. They blamed Mr Erdogan and the government, who they said had been “caught red-handed” over the Suruc attacks.
Meral Danis Bektas accused the AKP of being “directly responsible” for the bloodbath, with Turkey’s president constantly targeting the HDP and using language to provoke attacks on the pro-Kurdish opposition party and its supporters.
“Everybody sees the HDP as hope. But they intend to break our courage. Our MPs and co-chairs have been arrested but we did not take one step back. They will not succeed.
“We will continue to be with our people always,” she said
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