Armoured police vehicles and heavily armed special forces policemen, some of them masked, stood guard just outside several schools in the central Diyarbakir district of Sur.
“I saw the armoured police cars this morning, and the special forces police just at the end of our street, and I was afraid to go out,” said one 32-year-old woman. She added that the police were posted in the same spot as three weeks ago, when security forces conducted a violent raid in the district. “My children were afraid that there would be clashes again. But we will go vote today, we don’t let them intimidate us.”
According to Turkish election law, armed police are not allowed to be stationed closer than 100m from ballot boxes, lawyer Baris Yavuz, head of the Human Rights Foundation said. In some school turned polling stations, special forces left the premises after the arrival of an international delegation of leftist MEPs who complained about the breach of election legislation.
“This is an unprecedented provocation,” said Martina Michels, an MEP for the German leftist party Die Linke, and part of a delegation of election observers. “But the Turkish government should know that they are at least being watched.”
Many voters in Sur see the presence of heavily armed policemen as an attempt by the ruling AKP to scare people into voting in their favour.
“They want to put pressure on us, this is a tactic they use not to vote for the HDP,” said another female voter, aged 35. “God should punish Erdoğan for all the deaths here, all the people killed only because he wants to become [executive] president. We will not allow it.