Four young Kurdish men who were doing a traditional dance to loud music being played from loudspeakers were detained by İstanbul police and forced to lie on the ground in handcuffs over the weekend, the Gazete Duvar news website reported.
The incident took place on Sunday in İstanbul’s famous Moda neighborhood in the Kadıköy district.
A dispute erupted between the young men and the police officers who tried to stop them from dancing while Kurdish music was blaring from loudspeakers. The police officers seized the men’s loudspeakers and put them in the police car, which sparked objections from the young men, prompting police to pepper spray them. When one of the men attempted to punch a police officer, another officer began firing into 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 received by the men by the police and photos showing their detention have attracted widespread criticism on social media.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) called on Turkish authorities to release the young men immediately.
“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 çalıp halay çektikleri gerekçesiyle polis müdahalesine ve Mehter Marşı eşliğinde işkenceye maruz kalan gençleri derhal serbest bırakın. Kürt düşmanlığınız da faşistliğiniz de sonunuz olacak. Bu zihniyetin kazanmasına izin vermeyeceğiz!
— HDP (@HDPgenelmerkezi) May 22, 2023
This video is recorded yesterday in Istanbul..The only 'crime' of these people is to ‘dance with Kurdish music’.
Not only Police hand cuffs them from behind, put them on ground and arrest them, but also make them listen Neo-Ottomanist fascist song.pic.twitter.com/oP6C2A3Fbb
— HDP Europe (@HDP_Europe) May 22, 2023
Salih Gergerlioğlu, a human rights activist, tweeted that even if the police had had reasonable suspicion of the commission of a crime, the treatment given to the Kurdish men was unacceptable.
“This is a horrendous scene,” said Gergerlioğlu about the photo showing the young men.
A Kurdish woman named Demet sarcastically said the police officers had done a “great job” in subduing the young men.
“People who ask ‘What has the state done to you?’ should look at this photo carefully,” 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 identities.
Earlier this month Cihan Aymaz, a Kurdish street musician, was stabbed to death in İstanbul after he refused to sing a nationalist song.
Racially motivated attacks against Kurdish people are frequent in Turkey. Kurds say they are targeted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government, who associate some Kurds with terrorism due to 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 on or suppression of the Kurdish language in Turkey.