Four young Kurdish men doing a traditional dance to loud music played from loudspeakers were detained by Istanbul police and forced to lie on the ground in handcuffs over the weekend, Gazete Duvar news website reported.
The incident took place on Sunday in Istanbul’s famous Moda neighborhood in the Kadıköy district.
A dispute broke out between the young men and the police officers, who tried to prevent them from dancing while Kurdish music blared from loudspeakers. The police officers seized the men’s loudspeakers and put them in the police car, prompting objections from the young men, prompting the police to pepper spray them. When one of the men tried to hit a police officer, another officer started shooting in the air. All the men were subsequently restrained by the police and forced to lie on the ground in handcuffs while a nationalist anthem was played from the police car.
The treatment the men received by the police and photos showing their detention have drawn widespread criticism on social media.
The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) called on the Turkish authorities to immediately release the young men.
“Your Kurdish enmity and fascism will be your end. We will not let this mentality win!” the party tweeted in criticism of the Turkish government.
Kadıköy sahilde Kürtçe müzik çalip halay çektikleri gerekçesiyle polis ıntrassine ve Mehter Marşı eşlikde işkenceye maruzu kalan junglersi derhal seresam sırın. Kürt tümünlığıniz da faşistlığıniz de sonunuz olacak. Bu zihniyetin kazanmasına izin vermıkeyez!
— HDP (@HDPgenelmerkezi) 22 May 2023
This video was recorded yesterday in Istanbul. This people’s only ‘crime’ is ‘dancing to Kurdish music’.
Not only do the police handcuff them from behind, put them on the ground and arrest them, but also make them listen to neo-Ottoman fascist chants.pic.twitter.com/oP6C2A3Fbb
— HDP Europe (@HDP_Europe) 22 May 2023
Salih Gergerlioğlu, a human rights activist, tweeted that although the police had reasonable suspicion of the commission of a crime, the treatment of the Kurdish men was unacceptable.
“This is a terrible scene,” Gergerlioğlu said of the photo showing the young men.
A Kurdish woman named Demet said sarcastically that the police officers had done a “good job” of suppressing the young men.
“People who ask ‘What has the state done to you?’ should look carefully at this photo,” she said, recalling similar or worse treatment received by Kurds in Turkey at the hands of the state.
Meanwhile, the Artı Gerçek news website reported that the four men were referred to court on Monday. There was no information about their identity.
Earlier this month, Cihan Aymaz, a Kurdish street musician, was stabbed to death in Istanbul after he refused to sing a nationalist song.
Racially motivated attacks against Kurds are frequent in Turkey. Kurds say they are being targeted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government, which links some Kurds to terrorism because of their alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
Throughout most of the 20th century, successive governments have imposed outright bans or suppression of the Kurdish language in Turkey.