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Turkey Briefly Detains British Politician Close To Kurds

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 25/02/2016 Akbar Shahid Ahmed

WASHINGTON -- Natalie McGarry, a British parliamentarian who has advocated for the Kurdish population in the Middle East, was detained in Turkey Thursday, her attorney confirmed.

"I can confirm that Natalie McGarry MP was questioned earlier on today but was released shortly thereafter and is grateful to everybody for their messages of support," Aamer Anwer told The Huffington Post in an emailed statement. "It appears that a member of the Turkish Security Forces became alarmed as Natalie had her mobile phone out near a security check point. She was taken away for questioning and it was subsequently explained that she was simply recording the sound of bombs falling across the border in Syria. There will be no further statement and Natalie will be returning home soon."

The incident -- striking because it involves one NATO member harshly treating an elected representative from another one -- comes amid a bloody battle between the Turkish government and militant members of Turkey's millions-strong Kurdish minority.

Fighting between the two began once again last year, following the end of a ceasefire that had raised hopes for a lasting peace. Kurdish politicians in Turkey argue that the government now is deliberately harming civilians through long curfews and should return to the negotiating table with the largest Kurdish militant movement, the PKK. Turkey, the U.S. and the U.K classify the PKK as a terrorist organization.

The plight of the Kurds, oppressive measures by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the success of Kurdish forces against the so-called Islamic State group elsewhere in the region have caused some in the West to speak of removing the PKK's terrorist designation and weakening ties with Turkey.

It's possible that this incident will give further weight to that argument. British politicians began to tweet Thursday after the news of McGarry's detention broke.

An independent politician from Glasgow who was previously associated with the leftist Scottish National Party, McGarry has been a vocal proponent of working with leftist Kurds against ISIS. She visited the radical Syrian Kurdish region of Rojava in the fall of 2015 for a summit that brought together leftist activists from around the world.

Turkey views the leading party in Rojava, the PYD, as an extension of the PKK that must be treated as an equal terror threat. The U.S. has faced trouble with the Turks for working with the PYD's militia against the Islamic State in Syria.

McGarry did not immediately respond to a HuffPost request for comment. Neither did the British or Turkish embassies in Washington.

The parliamentarian tweeted, however, that she was "absolutely fine."

She later clarified that she had not been arrested.


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