Writing in Le Monde diplomatique, Selahattin Demirtaş, an MP from Istanbul and a member of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), denounces President Erdoğan’s recent efforts to silence members of his party. The HDP is one of the main opposition parties in the Turkish parliament and a strong supporter of Kurdish rights. Erdoğan and his allies in parliament have used backroom deals and arcane procedural rules to criminalize dozens of MPs from the HDP. Here’s an excerpt from Demirtaş’s text:
Erdoğan sees the HDP as an obstacle on his march towards autocracy. Because our party is the main voice and platform of popular and democratic forces in Turkey, in particular of the Kurdish political movement, Erdoğan wishes to silence it. His goal is to obstruct democratic opposition, and silence speeches in parliament denouncing the violations of human rights inflicted on the Kurdish-majority regions.
We will not give in to these attempts to drag our MPs before courts transformed into war machines serving the Justice and Development Party (AKP). We will continue our struggle for justice and equality, hand in hand with other forces of democracy in Turkey, while opposing the attempts to put our MPs on trial and the arrests of our local government councillors. The sound of arms in Kurdish towns, and the proclamations of Erdoğan, who thinks he can gain legitimacy by shouting ever louder from his Ankara palace, are deafening Turkey, which was not long ago discussing, if only formally, harmonisation with the democratic norms of the European Union.
A de facto war, with dreadful consequences, is once again wreaking havoc on Kurdish cities, threatening to destroy social unity; it is waged with heavy artillery and tanks, shelling people’s homes. Hundreds of civilians and Turkish security forces personnel, and an unknown number of Kurdish militia, have died since July 2015 as part of Erdoğan’s effort to win more votes and ensure the move to a presidential system, at the cost of setting the country on the path to destruction.
In the face of all this, people have expressed their fears of going back to the dark days of the 1990s. But what is happening today is worse. In the city of Cizre, hundreds of young people were burned to death in basements and Diyarbakır’s Sur district has been razed. There is growing anxiety and distress as people see their day-to-day security threatened. The space for democratic politics is shrinking as opposition voices are silenced. Those in power are establishing an ever more authoritarian regime to tighten their stranglehold on power and perpetuate their rule. This is the reality in Turkey today.
Image: Selahattin Demirtaş