Over the night of 3rd November the Turkish state moved to deepen the repression directed against the HDP, the party that got the 3rd largest share of the vote in the last two elections. Arrest warrants have been issued for at least 15 of that parties members of parliament including it’s two co-chairs. At the same time the state moved to shut down social media in the country with access to Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and WhatsApp being blocked.
Turkey is ruled by the AKP party under Erdogan who narrowly survived a military coup back in July. Erdogan has used the excuse of the coup to clamp down on all who oppose him, even those groups like the HDP who also opposed the coup. He has a particular gripe with the HDP as their electoral success blocked him from obtaining a high enough majority of AKP members of parliament to pass a new constitution without having to go to referendum.
The HDP (Peoples Democratic Party) is a relatively new party that brought together a range of left and progressive campaigners, in particular those who support some measure of autonomy for the Kurdish regions of south eastern Turkey. Back before its success in the June 2015 elections we wrote “Why is the Turkish state and the ruling AKP party so threatened by the HDP? The HDP presents itself as anti-capitalist and aspires to end religious, gender and racial discrimination. It has a 50% quota for women and a 10% quota for the LGBT community when fielding candidates. It's an expression of the movement coming out of Gezi park but also of the new ideology of the PKK and despite the peace process any manifestation related to the PKK continues to be repressed by the Turkish state.”
In the period since the Turkish state ended the peace process and resumed its suppression of the Kurdish freedom movement not only in Turkey but also with military attacks in Iraq and Syria. Last week video circulated of Turkish soldiers murdering two captured Kurdish women PKK combatants and
yesterday the PKK bombed a police station in Diyarbakir. (Update: ISIS have now claimed responsibility for the police station bombing )
This appears to be the immediate background for the arrests of the HDP deputies even though the HDP has no direct link with the PKK, it’s not even the equivalent of Sinn Fein. As co-chair Demirtas who was among those arrested last night told the Washington Post in May’ "We are not the legal arm of the PKK, we are an entirely independent political party. But there is certainly a lot of overlap between the people who vote for us and the people who support the PKK.”
Over the last weeks Turkey has stepped up its war against Rojava, the revolutionary cantons in northern Syria. Turkey has claimed to have killed hundreds of YPG/J fighters though air strikes and artillery bombardments. Most of these attacks have been on towns that the SDF which includes the YPG have recently liberated from ISIS. In some cases Turkish armour has been used to help its proxy army of jihadi militia to capture villages near the border earlier liberated from ISIS.
Finally its worth reminding ourselves that this is the same Turkish state that the EU is forcing refugees, including many Kurds, to ‘return’ to. This despite the fact that in the aftermath of the coup tens of thousands who had no involvement were fired from their jobs and most media not under the control of the ruling party have been closed down. As last nights events demonstrated again this a situation of escalating repression, Turkey is in no way ‘safe’, not now and certainly not in the future.
Our Facebook Footage from Nov 5th Dublin solidarity protest against the repression of the HDP in Turkey. Ahead of the protest the organisers said "the HDP [is the] only democratic, truly secular, pro-diversity, pro-women, pro-ecology, pro-LGBT rights, pro-freedom party in Turkey. It's MPs are being arrested including the co-chairs of the HDP Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtaş. Those MPs are elected by mostly Kurdish voters with more than 5 million people's votes in addition those MPs are Kurdish representatives. In other hand Turkish brutal military action continue in North Kurdistan as well as bombarding Kurdish civilian in Rojava.
Furthermore Turkey is set up brutal crackdown against Kurdish people in every Kurdish town and villages. We condemn the Turkish brutal attack against the Kurdish resistance and we call EU, UN, US to act responsibly towards the recent Turkish brutality against the Kurdish people"
Last night the purge of President Erdogan against our party has reached another peak: our Co-Chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yüksekdag, along with 11 further Members of Parliament of our party have been detained across Turkey last night. More arrests are to be expected. The goal of these measures is to shut down the third largest party in parliament. This is a dark day not only for our party but for all of Turkey and the region as it means the end of democracy in Turkey.
Ever since our party reached a historic victory during the national elections of June 7, 2015 where we succeeded to enter parliament despite the undemocratic 10% threshold, President Erdogan has singled out our party as the main target of his authoritarian policies. The reason is our principled opposition against his goal to introduce a presidential system in Turkey. Our seats in parliament are the biggest obstacles to the necessary constitutional changes. Thus, he simply ordered new elections in November 2015. Despite a series of violent assaults by “unknown perpetrators” on our party members and infrastructure, we managed once again to surpass the threshold on November 5, 2015 and won 59 seats in Parliament. Since he could not re-order elections another time, President Erdogan initiated the lifting of the immunity of our MPs in May 2016. As he could not prevent us from entering Parliament, he now orders us into prison.
Thousands of members, executives, elected mayors and city council members affiliated with the HDP and/or our sister party DBP have already been sent to prison on groundless charges since our electoral victory in June 2015. Yet the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and the subsequent declaration of a state of emergency has been the welcome opportunity for President Erdogan to eliminate all opposition. There is no freedom of expression and no freedom of press, no academic freedom, and no fair and independent judicial system any more. With government decrees gaining the power of law, over 170 media outlets critical of Erdogan have been banned. More than 130 journalists are in prison, including world-renowned authors and intellectuals. Most recently, two Kurdish news agencies and several Kurdish dailies were closed down and the chief-editor, columnists and journalists of the daily Cumhuriyet have been detained. More than 80,000 people have been detained since July 15, and about half of them are in prison now.
On November 30, Ms. Gülten Kisanak and Mr. Firat Anli, elected co-mayors of Diyarbakir from our party, were arrested and sent to prison. A district governor from Ankara was appointed to run the municipality. With this, the number of Kurdish municipalities run by bureaucrats appointed by the central government increased to 28. About 30 democratically elected Kurdish mayors are now in prison, and about 70 of them were dismissed by the central government.
We strongly condemn the detainment of our Co-Chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yüksekdag, as well our Members of Parliament Nihat Akdogan, Nursel Aydogan, Idris Baluken, Leyla Birlik, Ferhat Encü, Selma Irmak, Sirri Süreyya Önder, Ziya Pir, Imam Tascier, Gülser Yildirim, Abdullah Zeydan and demand their immediate release. The manufactured charges against them and all other party members must be dropped.
History has shown over and over again that any power based on brute force is outlived by the struggle for justice and freedom. We will not surrender to these dictatorial policies and call upon our friends around the world to stand in solidarity in our struggle to prevent Erdogan to steer the country into a civil war and further despotism.
Vice Co-chair of HDP Responsible for Foreign Affairs
Deputy for Bingol
November 4, 2016