Tension remained high yesterday in the Dörtyol district of Hatay province, the location of a deadly terrorist attack earlier this week, as a pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) convoy attempted to enter the district to examine the situation firsthand after several days of conflict.
Dörtyol recently turned into a battlefield after four policemen were killed in a terrorist attack, which was believed to have been carried out by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Nationalist groups set ablaze the district's BDP office and chanted slogans against the terrorist PKK. Hatay residents hung Turkish flags in their windows facing the main street, while security measures in Dörtyol were stepped up. In addition to setting fire to the BDP office late Monday night, the groups attacked some stores in the area as well.
The BDP convoy, which carried BDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş and some BDP deputies, had set out from Diyarbakır to inspect the situation in Dörtyol. The news about an approaching BDP convoy was sufficient to raise the already high tension in the district.
Many Hatay residents gathered in the city center to protest the arrival of the BDP convoy. Some locals said Dörtyol was normally a peaceful district and that the BDP was coming to the district for the sake of provocation, adding that they would not allow the convoy to enter the city. Upon the increasing tension in the city, the Hatay Governor's Office released a statement that said a decision was made to deny the BDP convoy entry to the district due to obvious concerns.
Following the decision of the governor's office, the BDP convoy was stopped at the Erzin exit of the Adana-İskenderun highway. Security officials informed those onboard the convoy about the decision which had been made banning their entry.
BDP deputy Ayla Akat dismissed claims that the convoy's goal was to create a disturbance in the city. Akat said the convoy would wait until the governor's office removed the barricade in front of them.
She provided the following response: “Members of a political party in Parliament are not entitled to disallow entry to a district if it does not disrupt the maintenance of peace and order. Peace and order cannot be maintained this way. We want to visit locals who sustained damage. We will wait here until the governor's office removes the barricade.”
However, after talks with senior BDP officials on board the convoy, the BDP officials decided to return to Diyarbakır. Dörtyol Mayor Fadıl Keskin from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said the return of the BDP convoy to Diyarbakır was the right decision, and will restore a sense of peace to the district.
Tight security measures taken in Dörtyol
Police took increased security measures in the Dörtyol district to guard against incidents that could have erupted due to the coming of the BDP convoy.
Starting from the morning hours, vehicles were searched one by one. The identity of the drivers and the passengers were checked in the General Information Search Check (GBT), which contains information pertaining to persons with criminal records.
Some 5,000-6,000 police officers from neighboring provinces, including Kayseri, Adana, Hatay, Osmaniye, Şanlıurfa, Ankara, Kahramanmaraş and Mersin, were dispatched to the district.
As Today's Zaman went to print, police were trying to prevent Kurdish and Turkish groups from clashing as they were violently proceeding towards each other from different neighborhoods.
Apart from the news concerning the BDP convoy that planned to come to Dörtyol, rumors about the killing of a Dörtyol resident and PKK soldier raised the tension in the city further.
Another cause for alarm regarded the rumor that BDP Co-chairperson Emine Ayna, known for her brazen statements, was in the city. Some say that troublemakers are trying to keep tension high in the city by spreading these kinds of rumors.
Having visited various local shop owners, Hatay Governor Celalettin Lekesiz urged the community to remain calm. Head of the BDP district office Halil Baybaris also called on the supporters of his party to act with common sense. Mayor Keskin warned locals against creating drama and expressed hope that the conflict in the district would come to an end as soon as possible.