A group of gendarmes has sparked outrage for terrorizing civilians in Van, a Kurdish-majority city in eastern Turkey, by firing random shots into the air for several minutes and frightening women in the vicinity as they arrived to detain a suspect, the Mezopotamya news agency reported on Tuesday.
According to Mezopotamya the officers, who came to detain a man identified only by the initials K.A. in the Xaşkan neighborhood of Başkale, fired into the air for several minutes and intimidated women who objected to the way they were carrying out the detention.
Footage released on social media shows more than 50 officers surrounding K.A.’s house, with some of them firing shots into the air while K.A. is being detained and put into a police vehicle. While the special forces are firing constantly into the air, the screams of women and children can be heard in the background, with some reports claiming that the women were battered by the police.
The suspect was accused of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “aiding and abetting a terrorist organization,” local media reports said, over his alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a bloody campaign in Turkey’s Southeast since 1984 and is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US.
Sharing footage of the gendarmes terrorizing civilians in Van, Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink said in a tweet that it was “mind-blowing.”
“This is why Kurdish journalists are thrown in jail: the realities of Kurdistan must remain unseen,” she added.
“This footage is scary. The Interior Ministry must explain this. Is this the way to carry out detention? What kind of intimidation is this?” Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a prominent defender of human rights, also tweeted.
Former HDP co-chair Sezai Temelli said the footage was “a display of the regime’s cruelty towards the Kurdish people.” Stating that there had been thousands of such cases in Turkey for the past 40 years, he added that he hoped it had “caught the eye of those who ignored it.”
“Take a good look at the persecution inflicted on the [Kurdish] people even for an ordinary detention. … Bullets fired [into the air], women battered [by police] and more. Is this insensitivity just because these things happen in the Kurdish geography? This is called cruelty!” HDP Van MP Murat Sarısaç said.
After the footage of the violent detention began to circulate on social media, the Van Governor’s Office issued a statement claiming that some social media users reflected the incident differently and that the officers only fire into the air to disperse the crowd after the suspect’s relatives started to throw rocks at the gendarmerie vehicles.