Statement, 16 August 2016

Attacks on the HDP are a cynical attempt to repress Erdogan’s main democratic opponent – the Kurdish movement

Recent attacks on the HDP in Turkey mark a dangerous development that threatens to push a country still reeling from the coup and counter coup crises into further chaos and conflict.
Selahattin Demirtas, the HDP’s respected co-leader, is facing prosecution for promoting “terrorist propaganda” and could be jailed for up to five years if convicted. The baseless charges stem from Demirtas’s outspoken stand against political violence and staunch advocacy for the reopening of the peace process with the Kurds. The prosecution is surely an attempt, under the cover of the counter-coup chaos, to remove an effective politician who has proved to be a thorn in the side of President Erdogan. Peace in Kurdistan condemns this action against Demirtas and notes that it comes at the same time as the closure of the largest Kurdish newspaper in the country, the daily Ozgur Gundem. These actions follow the police raid carried out on the Istanbul party headquarters of the HDP that took place on 11 August. A dangerous pattern of repression against pro-Kurdish organisation is unfolding and it has nothing to do with the government’s legitimate actions against the coup. The HDP and Ozgur Gundem unambiguously condemned the coup, but equally they have been fiercely critical of the AKP’s post-coup repression and political advantage seeking.

This repression is a cynical abuse of the counter-coup environment by the ruling AKP, to attempt to exert political control by attacking its most effective opponents.
Mr Demirtas is one of the most successful pro-Kurdish politicians of modern times and is respected far beyond his own political support base.

As a key player in the political leadership of the HDP he has helped lead the party to historic victories in breaking through the 10 percent threshold in the two general elections of 2015, much to Erdogan’s wrath and frustration.

Demirtas and the HDP clearly and courageously denounced the coup attempt while it was occurring. They are clearly not responsible for the political crisis in the country. Demirtas has been a staunch advocate of a peaceful way forward for the Kurds and has been an outspoken critic of the resort to violence. He clearly has a key role to play in any future peace process. The action taken against him threatens to take the country back to a previous chapter in its history when the repression of political opponents was the norm.

Coup or no coup, Turkey needs to radically change political direction. Serious damage has been inflicted on the infrastructure of Kurdish cities as the army has waged a war on supporters of the PKK over recent months. Collective punishment has become the order of the day as entire villages have been laid waste. The waging of a war on its own people is no way for a state to behave if it seeks respect on the world stage and to be accepted as a modern democracy.

Of late Erdogan has been busy building bridges abroad with countries such as Russia and Israel among others where relations had become deeply strained. If he can effect reconciliation with the country’s foreign partners, he could equally take the necessary steps towards reducing tensions within domestic politics and central to this is the Kurdish conflict.

The failure of the coup does not mean that Turkey is back on the road to stability. Far from it: there remains tremendous uncertainty and dangers of further conflict emerging and the ongoing resort to waves of repression is getting out of control.

The assumption, as some political commentators have erroneously argued, that there are somehow links between the PKK, Gulen and even ISIS is utterly absurd and in truth such hyperbole convinces nobody. In contrast, there are many who believe that the Gulenist network had been responsible for sabotaging the peace process with the Kurds. This is the opinion expressed, for example, by the respected human rights lawyer Muharrem Erbey. He has served nearly a full five years in prison for campaigning for a peaceful solution and knows what he is talking about.

Despite the coup and the counter coup, it seems that the Gulenists and Erdogan remain united in one thing: their opposition to the Kurds.

It is a fact that resumption of the peace process will make a major contribution to reducing social tensions and will help stabilise a very volatile internal political environment.
Demirtas and the HDP offer hope for achieving peace. The prosecution threat against him, the raids on the HDP head office in Istanbul and the closure of Ozgur Gundem newspaper, are all totally unjustified, short-sighted measures which risk sabotaging the prospects for peace even further. The threatened imprisonment of Demirtas (?) would only create more instability and add further chaos to the deeply dangerous situation that currently confronts the country.

These attacks on the HDP, its party leaders and its organisation, form part of a pattern of repression that threatens to drag Turkey into a far deeper crisis following the failed coup. Turkey’s leaders need to be told in no uncertain terms that further repression is not how the country will set itself on the way to stability, normalisation and a reduction of social conflict. Quite the reverse: it is stoking the embers of more conflict. We all have an interest in averting Turkey’s descent into crisis and repression. We must speak out.‎


Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
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Contacts Estella Schmid 020 7586 5892 & Melanie Gingell – Tel: 020 7272 7890

Patrons: Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford, Jill Evans MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Hywel Williams MP, Kate Osamor MP, Elfyn Llwyd, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, John Austin, Christine Blower, NUT International Secretary,  Simon Dubbins. UNITE International Director Bruce Kent, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, John Berger, Edward Albee, Margaret Owen OBE, Prof Mary Davis, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Mark Thomas, Nick Hildyard, Stephen Smellie, Derek Wall, Melanie Gingell