Reporter from “Efimerida ton Syntakton” met Devriş Çimen, representative of the HDP in Europe.
1. What is the situation in Turkey at the moment in relation with freedom of expression and human rights? Has anything changed regarding the Erdogan government’s attitude and the tactics of persecution in many cases, the imprisonment of citizens or groups that criticize?
In Turkey, people are facing such a situation that there are no human rights and freedom. We could also call it a singular and autocratic regime, some would say it is a fascist regime and they wouldn’t be wrong to call it that way. Perhaps, I do not need to go into all details about human rights and freedom. However, I would want to tell something about ‘freedom of speech’.
Right now, forget even about criticizing Erdogan and AKP. Turkish state pushing you to act like how they want you and live how they want you to. Because all government bodies are completely taken over and modified as Erdogan and AKP wanted. It is like institutionalization and whoever criticizes them or their governor bodies faces up to oppression and arrest.
For example, 95% of Turkish media is controlled by AKP. That is why many journalists are in prison. Many opposition can not get access to real news. Most of the news sources are censored. In such an environment, AKP’s regime forces society to go along with its autocratic, religious, nationalist, and conservative and sexist ideologies. Unfortunately, it forces society to change. Society has never been as much as nationalist, separatist, and extremist. Such an extreme and abnormal situation has become ‘normal’ in today’s Turkey.
2. How worrying such a situation is for citizens and parties representing minorities or disagreeing with the center line. A typical example is the illegal detention of your party’s former leader Selahattin Demirtaş. What are the margins of reaction?
Imagine, in such an autocratic regime of Turkey Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is an alternative for democratic and freedom based party. That is why HDP is the most punished and criticized by the Turkish regime. On 7 June 2015, the first time HDP passed the 10% election threshold with 13% popular vote. After the election, HDP has won 80 seats which have ended AKP and Erdogan’s singular regime and power.
After that election, Erdogan had two ways out. Either democratizing Turkey and bring freedoms back or take Turkey into chaos and war. Democracy was a hard chapter to go into for Erdogan. He has chosen chaos and war. Erdogan has ended peace talks of “Democratization of Turkey and solution to Kurdish problem” with PKK’s leader Abdullah Ocalan.
Afterward, Erdogan created a concept that attacks heavily on many political sides but mainly and mostly against HDP. Erdogan’s regime in and outside of Turkey has developed the ‘war concept’ and has legitimated it. Outside of Turkey; In Iraq and Northern, Syria attacks have killed countless Kurdish civilians. In Libya, the Aegean Sea, and lastly in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, he took part.
In foreign policy, Erdogan is using ‘Jihadists and extremists’ who are their ideological brothers. In domestic policy, he used all government security forces and law enforcement in such a reckless way as his own. That is the reason ‘Selahattin Demirtas’ and ‘Figen Yuksekdag’ are in prison as ‘political captives’ among side most of our politicians and activists. They are punished and jailed because HDP is opposed to a single-powered and fascist government.
3. Do you consider the attitude of the EU and the international community in your fight for a democratic Turkey to be satisfactory, with respect for justice and freedom of expression?
As HDP, we do not seek only solidarity and support. Most importantly, we want EU and international organizations to have a strong attitude towards Turkey and Erdogan’s regime. If EU and International organizations had a strong attitude towards Erdogan in the past, Turkey would not be in such a situation now. Unfortunately, EU and international organizations do not go further than just verbal criticisms occasionally. We did not see so far any attitude or sanctions against the Turkish government. The other way around, it even encouraged Erdogan and AKP. As long as the EU, Council of Europe and such organization keeps saying ‘We are worried, We are condemning’ Erdogan will keep violating fundamental rights and freedom in every case.
Erdogan openly attacked Northern Syria and occupied Kurdish territories and force people to move to Turkey as ‘refugees’. With all support to his jihadist and extremists he still occupies and forces people to leave Syria. Later on, he keeps ‘refugees’ as a tool to threaten the EU.
Moreover, In Iraq Turkish state heavily attacks PKK guerrillas in Northern Iraq. In Libya instead of peace and solution, he supports Jihadists. In the Aegean sea, he takes a risk to start a war against Greece. In Nagorno-Karabakh instead of peace, he supports war politics with its support.
After all, only saying ‘We are worried and condemning’ is not enough and will not stop him. We need action and a strong attitude.
4. And finally, Turkey and President Erdogan for many months seem not to care about their European perspective. They constantly break the law, behave aggressively towards Greece and Cyprus and ignore international legitimacy, acting as a troublemaker of the region. Given this, how do you see the future of your country while Erdogan remains president?
For the near future, seems like no positive changes could happen in Turkey. For the question of ‘Democracy or War?’ the answer was always war. Furthermore, the state which takes war as its policy cannot be developed. International organizations are part of this war policy as long as they keep silent. The more they silence, the more Erdogan thinks it is okay to do it. Against Turkish war policies, there should be diplomatic and economic sanctions imposed. There should be weapon and arms sanctions, otherwise, it could even get worse. Only expressing worries and condemning acts do not stop attacks and killings. It does not stop the violation of human rights and freedom.
The conflicts Turkey is having with Greece and Cyprus are the result of its war policy and concepts. Erdogan is developing a war concept against any problems in and outside of Turkey. It is not likely that he could act peacefully. The international community and organizations are facing such a great challenge.
Within the democracy we could achieve ‘peace’ but, peace cannot be achieved with Erdogan. So, we need an alternative that can develop democracy and freedom and would impose peaceful policies as well as protect fundamental rights and freedom.
You can find the link to the publication at “Efimerida ton Syntakton” here: https://www.efsyn.gr/politiki/synenteyxeis/266905_i-katadiki-toy-erntogan-den-arkei-hreiazontai-kyroseis