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Turkish cops block mourners from attending Kurdish construction workers' funeral

Ozkan Tokay was shot dead in a racist attack in the western province of Ayfon on Monday

TURKISH security forces blocked relatives and other mourners from attending the funeral of a Kurdish construction worker shot dead in a racist attack in the western province of Ayfon on Monday.

Scores of heavily armed soldiers surrounded the cemetery where the funeral of Ozkan Tokay took place preventing opposition politicians and journalists from entering.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Murat Sarisac said that people born in the eastern, largely Kurdish province of Van were banned from attending the funeral by order of the mayor of Ayfon and the local police chief.

Mr Sarisac, who represents Van, warned of the “lynching” of the Kurdish people, saying the party would not allow racist attacks against Kurds to become normalised.

He said the government was responsible for Mr Tokay’s death because of its creation of a culture of impunity and “divisive discourses that are aggravating tensions in society with the aim of bringing about a Kurdish genocide.”

An HDP statement offered condolences to the family of Mr Tokay, who was shot dead by an unknown assailant at a building site after apparently intervening in a dispute over a complaint that dust was being created by the workers. Four others were injured in the attack, including Mr Tokay’s 15-year-old brother.

The HDP warned that the ruling Justice and Development Party, through its hostile domestic and foreign policy towards the Kurdish people, has created a culture of lynching in Turkish society.

“Racist attacks against the Kurds are also a result of the government's policy of impunity. We will follow the racist murder in Afyon. We will not allow it to become normal for those who commit racist attacks against Kurds to receive no punishment,” the statement said.

Attacks on Kurdish workers have escalated recently, with Mr Tokay being killed just weeks after a group of 16 people picking hazelnuts in the western city of Sakarya were assaulted by a racist mob.

In the same city, a 19-year-old man was shot dead last October for speaking in Kurdish to a friend and, in a separate attack, Kadir Sakci was shot dead for the same reason.

The Turkish state is keen to downplay accusations of racism.

Following the brutal murder of Baris Cakan earlier this year for listening to Kurdish music in the capital Ankara, his family came under pressure to change their initial statements that the stabbing was racially motivated, while the Interior Ministry claimed that such allegations were the work of “provocateurs.”

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