Rt. Hon. Dominic Raab MP
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London SW1A 2AH
Rt Hon Lisa Nandy MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
22 May 2021
OPEN LETTER TO THE BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY ON THE TRIALS OF THE HDP IN TURKEY
Dear Foreign Secretary,
What has become popularly known as the Kobani case has opened in Turkey. This trial of elected Kurdish politicians and officials represents one of the biggest political trials in modern Turkish history.
A total of 108 leading HDP political leaders, party officials and parliamentarians are facing multiple life sentences in a 3,350-page case file that indicts them on 38 counts of homicide.
The members of the HDP are being blamed, totally unfairly in our view, for the deaths of 37 protesters who were killed by Turkish security services and paramilitaries after the HDP called for street protests in response to the siege in October 2014 of the Kurdish-held city of Kobani in northern Syria.
Kobani, liberated by the Kurds who sought to run it along democratic lines, became a beacon of hope for Kurdish aspirations to live a free life. Kurds in Turkey wanted to stand in solidarity with their compatriots in Kobane, who were waging a life and death battle against the murderous forces of ISIS (so-called Islamic State), whom the Kurds saw as backed by Ankara.
The current trial is viewed by Kurds as a political show trail and a cynical attempt to rewrite history from a Turkish nationalist perspective. It is the latest attempt by Turkey to deny the Kurdish people their legitimate rights and aspirations. It is a show trial because it seeks to make a public example of Kurdish political leaders and deny the legitimacy of their political demands.
There is a grave danger in this process in Turkey that this action will be interpreted by the country’s Kurdish population as indicating that their demands can never be achieved through democratic means.
Former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, already jailed since November 2016, faces an absurd 15,000-year sentence if found guilty of the charges now laid against him. Demirtas, a lawyer, is a former presidential candidate, an elected member of the Turkish Parliament and a popular figure among Kurds and others. His record shows him to be fully committed to the democratic process. Demirtas is a highly respected figure and an astute politician who could play a very constructive role in Turkey’s future.
This trial sends completely the wrong message to Turkey’s Kurds who need to be brought into the political process, not further alienated from it. In this respect, the trial is a miscalculation on Turkey’s part and the outcome is likely to backfire. The Kurds should be offered solutions to their demands which are legitimate. Humiliating and punishing their popular political leaders will only send a message to them that nothing can really be achieved through the ballot box. This will add fuel to the fire of the historic discontent and grievances felt by the Kurds.
The continued denial by Turkey of Kurdish rights and its failure to address the legitimate grievances of the Kurdish population fuels a conflict that has cost thousands of lives and caused so much damage to the social and economic development of the country and ultimately threatens the stability of the region. We should all be deeply concerned about this.
President Erdogan and the political leaders of Turkey must be brought to recognise that the use of force to suppress legitimate aspirations of the Kurdish people is an indication of weakness, not of strength. This trial will perpetuate a cycle of conflict and division between Turk and Kurd that has stained the Turkish state since its very foundation in 1923.
In less than two years’ time, the Turkish Republic will be commemorating its centenary. All the people of Turkey would surely want to celebrate this historic anniversary in conditions of peace and friendship. By setting up show trials that humiliate an entire community, Turkish leaders are putting the prospects for a peaceful future in grave jeopardy.
It is impossible to build a country and ensure stability on the basis of a historic injustice. The current trial of HDP politicians compounds the injustices inflicted on the Kurdish people and perpetuates conflict. To those who watch Turkish politics with close attention recent years have been a lost opportunity. The possibility of a historic resolution of historic Kurdish grievances existed through peace talks with elected leaders such as the HDP who achieved remarkable success in repeated recent elections.
The HDP has offered Kurds a means of redress through peaceful democratic means. The party’s leaders have given hope to the Kurdish people that their voice will be listened to by the country’s law makers. This is now being flouted.
The HDP politicians are punished for their democratic activities and for successfully representing the people who elected them. They have been removed from office and are now standing trial or already in prison. What kind of message does this send to the communities who chose the HDP to work on their behalf? Surely it can only indicate that the political process is closing its doors to them and shutting them out? What course of action will now be open to them?
Peace in Kurdistan believes that the present mass trials of Kurdish politicians should be brought to an immediate end and all charges should be dropped.
The cases should be closed, the HDP leaders now in jail should be released and the mayors and MPs should be allowed to return to the offices to which they were legitimately elected. This is the only way to restore public confidence of Kurds in the political and legal system of Turkey. This would be an important step on the route to building peace and reconciliation between Turkey and its Kurdish population. We can then look forward to an end to the conflict that has bedevilled Turkey throughout its almost hundred years of history.
We urge the British Government to use its good offices and exert influence on its strategic ally Turkey to end the grotesque charades in the court room that have the potential to inflict huge damage on Turkish society and precipitate a renewed spiral of conflict and instability.
Peace in Kurdistan awaits a response.
Peace in Kurdistan
Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish Question
44 Ainger Road, London NW3 3AT
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, Prof Mary Davis, Lord Dholakia, Simon Dubbins, UNITE International Director, Jill Evans, former MEP, Desmond Fernandes, Lindsey German, Convenor STWC, Melanie Gingell, Christopher Gingell, Prof Dr. Michael Gunter, Secretary-General, EU Turkey Civic Commission (EUTCC), Rahila Gupta, journalist, Nick Hildyard, policy advisor, Dafydd Iwan, Former President Plaid Cymru, James Kelman, Bruce Kent, Jean Lambert, former MEP, Dr Les Levidow, Open University, Elfyn Llwyd, John McDonnell MP; Aonghas MacNeacail, Scottish Gaelic poet, 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, Maxine Peake, actor, Dr Thomas Phillips, Liverpool John Moores University, Trevor Rayne, writer, Joe Ryan, Tony Simpson, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, Stephen Smellie, PIK Trade Union Liaison Officer, Jonathan Steele, journalist, 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.