The arrest of HDP co-chairs in 2016 came shortly after a historic election win that raised hopes for peace in Turkey, and the collapse of the solution process extinguished them. Since then, “a political coup has continued at full speed”, HEDEP MP and spokeswoman Ayşegül Doğan said.
The lengthy imprisonment of Kurdish and pro-Kurdish MPs, often without conviction and against top court rulings, has gone beyond an operation against any one political party and spread throughout Turkey, Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP) MP and spokeswoman Ayşegül Doğan said in a press conference on Friday.
“Tomorrow is 4 November … On 4 November 2016, 12 Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MPs including co-chairs Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş were arrested in a midnight raid,” Doğan said.
“The number of arrested HDP MPs rose to 15 later on,” continued Doğan, whose father Orhan Doğan was one of the first Kurdish MPs in Turkey’s parliament and served more than 10 years over «terrorism charges».
On Wednesday, former HDP MP Hüda Kaya was arrested and sent to prison in relation to the same case many other MPs have been jailed over, the so-called Kobani Trials.
“This is a political coup that has continued at full speed for the last seven years,” Doğan said.
According to the MP, the “discomfort” with the HDP started with the 2013 peace process between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), during which the HDP won 13 percent of the vote in 7 June 2015 elections. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power since 2002, lost its parliamentary super majority for the first time in the elections.
“The potential that came out in the vote was the people who fight for freedom, equality, truth and justice in this country,” Doğan said. “On 7 June 2015 they did something very important.”
Turkey’s election threshold was kept at an unusually high 10 percent for years, “so that Kurds and forces of democracy would not be represented in parliament”, she continued. “That threshold was destroyed. The government, having lost its majority, did not recognise the election, another election was held and the solution process was ‘fridged’, as the president said.”
In the July that followed the historic elections, the peace process collapsed as two police officers were killed in what was later alleged to be an intelligence operation.
Shortly after, municipalities won by the HDP’s sister Democratic Regions Party (DBP) had their elected mayors replaced by government proxies. Doğan recounted the period as follows:
“Ninety-four out of 102 DBP municipalities had government appointees, there were months-long curfews in many cities, hundreds of politicians were arrested and almost all civil society organisations in the country were made into potential targets. Women’s and children’s associations were shut down, as were newspapers, radio stations and television networks.
“Academics were expelled, politicians and journalists were jailed. All these were a sign of an updated severe concept of war. The whole country was virtually thrown into the fire and dragged into conflict. With massacres in Suruç, Diyarbakır and Ankara, democracy, freedoms and the law were suspended.
“The Kobani conspiracy case and the case to shut the HDP down formed, in the clearest terms, the foundation of the authoritarianism we experience today. Hundreds of our colleagues were taken hostage in this coup, which itself became a symbol of our insistence on a solution to the Kurdish issue.”
The Kobani trials concern several days of street protests in October 2014 throughout Turkey against the Islamic State (ISIS) laying siege to the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani (Kobanê) and the Turkish government’s perceived support for it. MPs and other members of the HDP face charges of «terrorism» and incitement to violence, and the trial forms a major part of an ongoing case to shut the HDP down.
“We have suffered to learn well that one of the most important aspects of the 100-year-old republic is a fear of democratic politics,” Doğan said. “Democratisation in Turkey is impossible without a solution to the Kurdish issue, the last 30 years have shown this clearly. The Kobani case is just a tool for revenge against this political tradition.”
Doğan spoke of a report prepared by the Parliamentary Commission to Investigate Military Coups, regarding the lifting of immunities for eight Kurdish MPs including her father. On 2 March 1994, Democracy Party (DEP) MPs Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Mahmut Alınak, Selim Sadak, Sırrı Sakık, Zübeyir Aydar, Ahmet Türk and Orhan Doğan were forcibly removed from parliament and subsequently jailed after their immunities were lifted over accusations that they were members of the PKK, designated a «terrorist group» in Turkey.
“The report pointed out that the 1990s saw Turkey shift to an order of unconventional warfare. What is called anti-terrorism is this shift. This is such an open confession,” Doğan said.
“The report says hopes for a solution in the Kurdish issue were extinguished with this shift,” she continued. “So why are Kurdish politicians still behind bars? To wait another 28 years, or for another report to make further confessions?”