On Tuesday, Turkish police arrested almost a thousand people in operations in several provinces of the country, including dozens accused of having links to or being part of the “intelligence structures” of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an organization considered terrorist by the government Turkish. The operations are linked to Sunday’s attack in Ankara, in which two attackers died and two policemen were injured: the attack was claimed by the PKK. The other people arrested are accused of illegal possession and trafficking of weapons.
The attack was carried out on Sunday morning, a few hours before the Turkish parliament returned to meet after the summer break. Two men had attempted to break into the Interior Ministry building in Ankara, using a stolen car. One of the two had tried to hit the armed guards outside the building with a small explosive charge and firearms, while the other had tried to enter: the first had then blown himself up, the second had been killed.
Sunday’s attack was the first in Ankara since 2016. A few hours later, the PKK, a group that has opposed the government since 1984 with the aim of creating a Kurdish state, claimed responsibility for the attack. In response, Turkey had bombed twenty Kurdish military positions in northern Iraq.
Among those arrested is Aysenur Arslan, a 73-year-old television presenter who has long been very critical of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in power since 2003. During a program broadcast on Monday, Arslan had questioned the reconstruction of the Turkish authorities on Sunday’s attack: for this reason she was accused of “terrorist propaganda” and of having celebrated criminal activities.
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The many arrests carried out by the police on Sunday are nothing new for Turkey, a country which in recent years Erdogan has transformed in an increasingly authoritarian direction, limiting freedom of the press, sacking tens of thousands of public officials and targeting critics and dissidents. The Turkish government had already resorted to the instrument of mass arrests in the past: it happened for example after the attempted coup in 2016, one of the most difficult moments of Erdogan’s years as president.