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Turkey’s Pro-Kurdish HDP Party under pressure, its MPs keep detained

HDP MPs Arrested

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) Spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen was detained over weekend about 15 hours, then released. Same thing happened to HDP MP Altan Tan as well as Ms. Huda Kaya. On Monday, another MP Idris Balubüken has been released who is sitting jail since late November.

The two co-chairs of Turkey’s HDP have been arrested along with 11 other parliamentary deputies, as part of a sweeping investigation of the officials’ links to “terrorist propaganda”.

In early November 2016, police raided the Ankara home of co-leader Figen Yüksekdag and the house of co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş in Diyarbakır.  Demirtaş is still facing 102 proceedings on charges of managing a terrorist organization, inciting violence and hatred, and praising a crime. Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for Figen Yüksekdağ, on charges of terrorism for her alleged ties to the PKK.

“The Kurdish Obama”

Under Demirtaş, the HDP became the first pro-Kurdish party in Turkey’s history to gain enough votes to win seats in parliament, delivering a message of sexual equality, gay rights, secularism and socialist economics.

In June 2015, he led the HDP in parliamentary elections that saw the party win 13 percent of the vote, rewarding them with 80 seats for the first time in history. Known as ‘The Kurdish Obama’ for his charisma and popular appeal, Demirtaş was portrayed in The Guardian as a bright new Kurdish star and compared to the former US President.

In a speech after the results were announced, “We, as the oppressed people of Turkey who want justice, peace and freedom, have achieved a tremendous victory today.”

The Snap Election

After the election result, the AKP lost its long majority in parliament, which created the need for a coalition government. The 45 day-long negotiation process among the parties to form a coalition government led to political deadlock and ended in failure. So, Turkey held a new election on November 1.

As Turkey warily prepared for the snap elections, the conflict between the armed forces and the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) once again flared up.  Suicide bombers struck at least three times in six months. Turkey then suffered the deadliest attack in its history when more than 100 people were killed at a peace rally in Ankara attended by mainly left-wing demonstrators, including many HDP supporters. HDP carried out a campaign under duress and political pressure during the term.  

When the election results were announced, HDP’s total number of duties dropped from 80 to 59.  

Following this unexpected result, co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş said that it had not been “a fair or equal election”.

After the Attempted Military Coup

On 15 July 2016, an attempted military coup led to hundreds of arrests,  and an undermining of the political situation of Kurdish, democratic and leftist people in Turkey. Immediately, the government announced a state of emergency for 3 mounths.

Since the attemped millitary coup, a statement released by the HDP,  8,711 members and supporters of their party have been detained and 2,705 have been arrested, when the peace process between Ankara and the PKK fell apart and the conflict renewed.

Since the coup trustees have been appointed to 1 MHP municipality, 3 AKP municipalities and 34 HDP municipalities. 37 co-mayors from 27 HDP municipalities are under arrest as of November 17.  As of December 21, 69 co-mayors from 45 DBP-governed municipalities are in prison. The detention is ordered for 13 deputies were issued, but 11 were arrested as two were abroad.

Melike Gül Demir

Editor: Michael Hornsby

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