Killing of Kurd in Turkey’s capital reflects ‘seeds of hatred’

The murder of a Kurdish man in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara reflects the government’s “seeds of hatred”, a pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) official said.

“Those who plant the seeds of hatred and enmity in the public and those who ban even the discourse on peace, this is the result,” pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy party (HDP) official Meral Danış Beştaş said in a tweet, referring to the policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Barış Çakan, 20, was in a park with a friend in Ankara’s Etimesgut neighbourhood on Sunday night when he asked three men to turn down the volume of the music playing from their car during the evening call to prayer, the Guardian said. 

Çakan’s friend told police that an argument broke out and Çakan was stabbed in the heart and killed, according to a statement from the Ankara governor’s office on Monday. Three suspects have been arrested.

Çakan’s father said that the assault had not been triggered by Kurdish music – as had previously been reported in the media. 

But the racial overtones of the killing have led to an outpouring of anger and solidarity on social media, including under the hashtag #BarışÇakan, with comparisons drawn to the killing of African-American George Floyd at the hands of U.S. police.

In reaction to Çakan’s death, Giran Ozcan, another HDP official, quoted Martin Luther King Jr by saying “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” and referencing the killing of both Floyd and Iyad Halak, a Palestinian man with autism who was shot and killed by Israeli police in Jerusalem last week. 

The HDP says 45 of its mayors out of a total of 65 municipalities that the party won in March 2019 local elections have been removed from office and replaced by government-appointees, with at least 21 imprisoned over accusations of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The anger over Çakan’s death was stoked further after a friend and a relative of his stated on on Tuesday that the family had been pressured to cover up the reason for the argument, the Guardian said.

Turkey’s Interior Ministry spokesperson İsmail Çataklı denied that the crime was racially motivated, and said that “provocateurs” were focusing on the racial angle.

Kurds are Turkey's country’s largest ethnic minority, representing around 20 percent of the population. They have for decades been denied basic rights including education in their mother tongue by governments that viewed expressions of Kurdish identity as a threat.

Last week, a library named after Kurdish intellectual Celadet Bedir Khan in the southeastern city of Siirt was demolished and Kurdish-language signage taken down and replaced with Turkish signage, the Guardian said.