Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
Prime Minister’s Office
10 Downing Street
Dear Prime Minister
The Kobane Trial: The HDP’s vital political voice must not be silenced
The so-called “Kobani Trial” against the HDP in Turkey which starts Wednesday 15 March 2023 is a trial whose outcome will have far reaching implications for the future of democracy in the country and for the Turkish state’s relations with its large Kurdish population.
The trial cannot be viewed in isolation but as part of the various measures taken by the AKP government headed by President Erdogan against the HDP, which is the country’s third largest political party and one that commands mass support among the Kurdish community. The trial is without doubt an attempt by the government to weaken the HDP’s electoral base and to erode its support, to render it politically ineffective and, in effect, to eliminate it from the political scene. The actions targeting the HDP have been going on for years but have been increased as the country moves closer to the May elections, which pose a challenge to the majority enjoyed by Erdogan’s party, which is now under increased pressure as a result of its handling of the recent earthquake. Should Erdogan fail to secure a majority in this anniversary year it will be interpreted as a massive public political humiliation for him personally and a huge defeat for the party that has dominated Turkish politics for many years. Such an outcome will be seen as a repudiation of Erdogan’s approach to the Kurdish issue, which has been one consisting entirely of repression and treating them as enemies of the state.
If support for the HDP holds up and it does well in the May poll, its success could deprive Erdogan of his majority. Erdogan is fully aware of this and has therefore embarked on a series of administrative measures and legal actions to ensure that the party cannot function freely, by arresting party leaders and elected members, using every method available to weaken and hamper the party’s normal activities and campaigning. The trial should be seen in this framework.
The ultimate aim would be to ban the party which would deprive the Kurdish voters of a strong clear voice in national politics and deny them any effective representation. This would be a huge blow for the future of democracy inside the country and could lead to significant social unrest among the Kurdish population heralding a period of political instability that may have far wider consequences beyond Turkey’s borders.
At stake therefore is not simply the future of one political party alone but the stability of a major UK ally and what is a strategically important country in a very volatile region.
In view of this, we therefore call upon the UK Government to exert its influence to ensure that the HDP is not banned, and that Erdogan shows full respect for democratic norms in the country. The Kurds are entitled to vote for the party of their choice. This is their basic democratic right which they have exercised in successive elections by voting for the HDP in increasing numbers. The HDP is a responsible political party fully committed to pursuing its demands through the democratic process. It is giving a necessary political voice to the Kurds and showing that their grievances can be remedied through peaceful democratic political action. For the Kurds, who suffer disproportionate discrimination and neglect in Turkey, the HDP represents hope.
Banning the party would be a terrible regression setting back democracy inside Turkey. It would be a harsh lesson for the Kurds who feel the system is heavily stacked against them already and many would start to lose faith in the democratic process entirely. The consequences of this should be deeply alarming for you as they are for us.
We urge you to send British government representatives to observe the trial proceedings when the court deliberates the case this week.
We urge the British government to voice your concerns with the Turkish government about the issue and the wider implications.
We urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that democratic processes in Turkey are followed and respected and that the Kurds are not deprived of this vital political voice.
There has rightly been much sympathy for the people of Turkey following the devastating earthquake and their continued plight demands our support, but equally the world cannot simply ignore this important trial and the direct assault on Kurdish political rights.
6 March 2023 2023
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
Contacts Estella Schmid: 07846 666 804 & Melanie Gingell: 07572 430903
Patrons: John Austin, Baroness Blower of Starch Green, former GS NUT, Prof Bill Bowring, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Maggie Cook, UNISON women activist; Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director, Dr Radha D’Souza, writer, Desmond Fernandes, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Christopher Gingell, Prof Dr. Michael Gunter, Secretary-General, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC), Rahila Gupta, journalist, Lord Hylton, Nick Hildyard, policy advisor, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru: Doug Jewell, GFTU General Secretary, James Kelman, novelist, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Jean Lambert, former MEP, Dr Les Levidow, Open University, Elfyn Llwyd; John McDonnell MP, Mike Mansfield QC, David Morgan, journalist, Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, GFTU, Dr. Jessica Ayesha Northey, Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy, Dr Thomas Jeffrey Miley, Kate Osamor MP, Margaret Owen OBE, Ali Gul Ozbek, Former Councillor and Mayor of Haringey; Gareth Peirce, Dr Felix Padel, anthropologist, Maxine Peake, actor, Dr Thomas Phillips, Liverpool John Moores University, Father Joe Ryan; Dr Thomas Schmidt, ELDH Europe, Bert Schouwenburg, International Trade Union Adviser, Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Stephen Smellie, PIK Trade Union Liaison Officer, Jonathan Steele, journalist, Chris Stephens SNP MP, Steve Sweeney, journalist, Gianni Tognoni, General Secretary Permanent People’s Tribunal, Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas, Dr Federico Venturini, Associate Researcher, University of Udine, Italy; Dr Tom Wakeford, Dr Derek Wall, Julie Ward, former MEP, Kariane Westrheim, Chair, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC); Hywel Williams MP.