Turkey launches crackdown on Hizb ut-Tahrir

A Hizb ut-Tahrir conference in Turkey

Around 300 members and supporters of the Islamic political party Hizb ut-Tahrir were taken into custody in Turkey after they held a protest in front of the police headquarters in Istanbul demanding the release of two HT activists.

Mahmut Kar, media bureau chief of Hizb ut-Tahrir Turkey, and his colleague Osman Yildiz were taken into custody on March 1 after unsuccessfully applying for permission from local authorities to hold an international conference to commemorate the Ottoman caliphate, which was abolished in 1924.

“After the announcement for the conference was made, extremely secular Kemalist media outlets started spreading news against the event and pressuring the government,” Kurtulus Sevinc, a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s media bureau, told Al-Monitor. “Authorities soon informed us that our conference was banned. Kar was invited to the police headquarters to receive this official decision, yet, to all of our surprise, on the orders of a prosecutor, Kar and Yildiz were detained on March 1.”

Then on March 6, 300 Hizb ut-Tahrir supporters, including Kar’s family members, stood in quiet protest in front of the police headquarters in Istanbul demanding the release of Kar and Yildiz, saying that if the men remained in custody the police could detain the supporters as well. To everyone’s surprise, police did take all the protesters, including women and young children, into custody. The next day, the women and children were released, and later, all but three of the 300 male supporters were let go. A total of five members remained in custody although now it’s believed they have all been released.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) rose to power on the shoulders of Islamic groups and pious Turks and Kurds. Indeed, the secular media for decades reported how AKP members trod carefully so as not to upset certain so-called Islamists and to meet most of their demands.

Sevinc said Hizb ut-Tahrir can’t understand why their members were taken into custody. He said no member had challenged the government’s conference ban or tried to disobey the decision.

Al-Monitor asked AKP officials and pro-AKP groups why Kar and Yildiz had been detained. They said the group’s timing was bad with the country under a state-of-emergency law and Hizb ut-Tahrir should have known better than to call for a conference about the caliphate. Another official said the caliphate is “forbidden in Turkey.”

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