Devriş Çimen, European Representative of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) – Interview to Natali Glezou, for the Efimerida ton Syntakton (efsyn.gr), 14.04.2021
- Which are the latest developments about HDP closure?
Under his authoritarian regime, Erdoğan always proclaims “the new Turkey”. But there are structural and political problems, because it massively dismantles the last vestiges of democracy and attempts to eliminate its opponents with every means possible.
The following are linked to Erdogan’s regime: restriction of freedom of the press, turning away from the EU, suppression of critical voices, policies hostile to the Kurds, war-based foreign policy in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Karabakh and the Mediterranean, Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic style of government, gigantomaniac construction projects and corruption.
He wants the the total control over parliament, military, police, intelligence, judiciary, education, universities, economy, bar associations, NGOs, health care, culture, art, and press.
On March 17, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the public learned through Anadolu, that the Prosecutor General Bekir Şahin filed a motion to ban the HDP. On March 31, the submitted application to ban the HDP, was rejected by the Constitutional Court in Ankara. Formal deficiencies were cited as the reason. But any of these so-called decisions are formal steps. The decision was political.
For HDP and all of us all accusations are illegal. It is a purely politically motivated judicial matter which unlawfully resulted as ‘court case’. It is not possible to judge how far the judiciary can withstand the political pressure, but we hope that the last remnants of the judiciary will comply with democratic and universal standards and reject this case. All accusations against the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are urged by Erdoğan and his partner Devlet Bahçeli (Leader of the ultranationalist party MHP) to the judiciary.
- On 3th April O. F. Gergerlioglu the MP fighting for justice and human rights was viciously arrested in his house and sent to prison and transferred to hospital in the Intensive Care the same day, obviously severely beaten. What is really happening inside Turkish jails?
There are tens of thousands of political prisoners. Among them, 4000 members of the HDP, including MPs, mayors, officials. They are all political hostages of Erdoğan. When you have political prisoners, talking about free justice is a joke.
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu is just one example among thousands. After Gergerlioğlu’s immunity was revoked, he stayed in parliament for days in protest. Even the parliament was stormed by the police and he was arrested and later released. After that they announced that he should surrender within 10 days.
He refused to surrender. So they stormed his apartment and imprisoned him. This case shows how Erdoğan takes revenge against his opponents. The prisons are overcrowded with his political opponents. No one should convince us that these people are guilty. They are all imprisoned because of their political views. The torture methods of the new Turkey have of course “modernized”.
Even if it is denied by the Turkish government; the so-called body search in police custody and in detention has re-established itself as a torture method in Turkey in the last decade. The European Court of Human Rights had (ECtHR) already in 2016 condemned a case of a nude search in Turkey as a violation of rights.
However, this did not stop Ankara from continuing this practice. At the end of 2020, Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu addressed the issue of nude searches in state custody as well as the circumstances of the prisons. Today he is in prison himself. So this also sends a signal to society that anyone who criticizes the AKP must expect to be jailed. There by the society is intimidated and it is spreading fear.
- Will Erdogan go for snap election as co-Chair Pervin Buldan said in order to prevent the formation of coalition of the Opposition and trying to stay by any means in power?
I mentioned above how the AKP, with its fascist partner MHP, keep most institutions under control. But the support among the population is declining. This leads to a dead end. So he tries to keep his control with violence and repression. The HDP has a key role in the overall politics of Turkey.
Neither the “old Turkey” under the Kemalist nor the “new Turkey” under the Islamicconservative/nationalist can contribute to the democracy. HDP is the only opposition political party that presents a program for the democratization of Turkey. Therefore, they try with all possibilities to keep the HDP out of the way. If this happens, they would call elections.
But that will not be easy. With or without the HDP, the voters of the HDP will be decisive in Turkey’s politics either way. There are sufficient examples of this. Let’s just see how these voters have torn the major cities away from the AKP. Look only the last election repetition in the year 2019, from Istanbul.
So we have a strong, political electorate, and that’s what drives the political discourse. But according to current circumstances, Erdoğan cannot call new elections because he does not see the necessary strength and the polls show that he cannot win. In order for him to win, banning HDP alone cannot help him, but he would also have to rob the right to vote of all HDP voters, which is also not possible.
Under these circumstances, Erdoğan cannot call new elections because he does not see the necessary strength and the polls show that he cannot win. In order for him to win, banning HDP alone cannot help him, but he would also have to rob the right to vote of all HDP voters, which is also not possible.
There may be a search for a return to the parliamentary system as described by Selahattin Demitras. But this will not be easy if they are not serious about it.
- The deteriorating Turkish economy, for example Turkish lira depreciation and the rise of inflation moving towards 20% and the failure in handling pandemic creates an “explosive” scenario of public discontent and accelerates elections?
Unemployment has risen. Foreign investment is declining massively, and the turkish lira has depreciated massively against other currencies. Bad developments and corruption never end. Society is tired of all these practices of the AKP. Poverty is rising, hope is fading. People want to live in dignity and democracy. But as long as this fascist, Islamist AKP-MHP coalition is in power, this is not possible.
I still wonder why people put up with this stuff? What more must be done to counter these practices? That is the opposition’s fault. It accepts all this practice. In that way, HDP is left alone. At the Newroz (the big Kurdish celebration on 21st March) millions of Kurds, in spite of the pandemic positions on the side of the HDP. That is why the entire Turkish population and the opposition have to overcome their fears and side with the HDP against authoritarian politics. Only in this way will they be able to live freely and democratically.
Because our economy can’t get better, it’s still getting worse. They spent a lot of money on the war against the Kurds. The war in Kurdistan costs Turkey a lot of money. If they used that money for the democratization of the country, the political and economic situation would be improved.
- In your Twitter account as HDP Europe you wrote: “In 27 years of Turkish Democracy history keeps repeated itself”. How many pro-Kurish political parties has Turkish state closed so far?
Turkish politics have a Kurdish phobia. This must be dealt with. The only solution is a democratic confrontation with their past and practice. Look at the Turkish constitution, at it is written only for Turks. And the question about religion in public life remains the same. Hundreds of thousands Imams are being paid by State claiming that 99% of people are Muslim but this is not true. Constitution cannot fulfil the expectations of a democracy.
The Constitution and thus also the policies applied deny the democratic variety as it is being illustrated with Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Arabs, Alevis, Yazidis, Christians, Circassians, Laz people, Pontus and other peoples. These are organized within the HDP and that is why the HDP is under so much systematic repression. The Kurds are more advantageous because they organize themselves in all areas. They rightly demand their rights. However, on the side of politics, unfortunately, nothing has happened.
For example, the Turkish policy refuses and still discusses shameful the subject of Kurds, whether it should give the cultural rights (language, education in mother tongue, the selfdefinition etc.) or not.
There have been extortion against 49 municipalities (which HDP won by high majority of votes) now taken over by the ‘trustees’ of Erdogan. In addition, a total of 9 parliamentarians were imprisoned, including 6 deputies in the previous elections.
Actually, this must be a shame for Turkey and the Turkish population. Even more embarrassing is that all the international fora consider such a government as a legitimate partner.
So the international bodies play with this assimilation policy of the Kurds and the other peoples in Turkey.
What Turkey was before 27, when politicians from the parliament were imprisoned by police, it is the same today. The Constitutional Court has closed 24 political parties since its establishment in 1963. In the last 30 years, where the HDP continues to develop the tradition, the People’s Labor Party (Halkın Emek Partisi – HEP), Democratic Party (Demokrasi Partisi – DEP), Freedom and Democracy Party (Özgürlük ve Demokrasi Partisi -ÖZDEP), People’s Democratic Party (Halkın Demokrasi Partisi – HADEP), Democratic Society Party (Demokratik Toplum Partisi – DTP) were closed by the Constitutional Court.
The difference lies in the fact that despite the progress of mankind the policy in Turkey develops backwards. Democracy means, including diversity and not excluding it as the AKP does. There is a long way to go before democracy is internalized.
- According to recent survey, 53% of Turkish people are against the withdrawal from Istanbul Convention. Recently the Womens’ Movement started an electronic campaign under the title “I don’t want to die”. Do you believe that this decision targets directly womens’ lives?
The patriarchal Turkish-Islamic-conservative view is hostile to the former Laicality-Turkish nationalism. The politics in Turkey, which was and is problematic anyway, are at war with others.
All those not subordinate to the worldview of the AKP will be at war. On the basis of Erdoğan’s political rhetoric, one can roughly assess what is happening to those who stand for freedom and equality. In Turkey as a whole, women suffer under this system.
Women and women’s organizations seeking and promoting equality have been systematically criminalized and jailed. The co-chair system (1 woman & 1 man) of the HDP, especially in the municipalities, have been attacked and women have been intimidated in the society so that they do not participate in the political processes.
Therefore, it is no surprise that the police stormed the Rosa Women’s Association in Diyarbakır in the morning hours of April 5. At the same time, many apartments in the city were searched. In the process, 22 politically active Kurdish women have been arrested so far. A total of 33 women have been put on notice for arrest by the public prosecutor’s office in Diyarbakır. This is their way of telling women “don’t organize”.
According to the organization “We will stop murders of women”, at least 300 women were murdered by men in Turkey in 2020, according to official data. Apparently, the dark number is however much higher. The same organization classified 171 deaths as “suspicious,” including alleged suicides. In February of this year alone, 35 women were murdered by men.
Erdoğan’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, which is supposed to protect women from violence, prepares the ground for the patriarchal Turkish society to further oppress women.
It’s just the tip of the iceberg. The perfect image of women in the “new Turkey” is: without rights and freedoms, apolitical, obeying the man, covered with headscarf, cooking and giving birth at home. But against this, the women, and above all the Kurdish women, will organize themselves even more strongly and stand up for social freedom.
- Could there be a positive agenda in Europe-Turkish relations, as Sergey Lagodinsky of Greens /EFA was wondering, while there are no European sanctions taken against Turkey in relation to the crackdown against HDP and Opposition?
When we look at history, we see that all authoritarian regimes have only reigned as it is governed like Erdogan. It is surprising and questionable that the EU perceives this regime as a legitimate partner. We can enumerate the list of negative developments and it will never end.
Apart from Erdogan’s tactical rhetoric, the EU cannot show us any positive developments which can bring hope Turkey. EU officials may meet with Erdogan. That is their right, but not at the expense of the rights of the Turkish population.
In the European Parliament resolution on the Syrian conflict – 10 years after the uprising of March 10, there is the following appeal: “Calls on Turkey to withdraw its troops from Northern Syria, which it is illegally occupying outside of any UN mandate;
Condemns Turkey’s illegal transfers of Kurdish Syrians from occupied Northern Syria to Turkey for detention and prosecution in violation of Turkey’s international obligations under the Geneva Convention. Urges that all Syrian detainees who have been transferred to Turkey be immediately repatriated to the occupied territories in Syria;
Express its concerns that Turkey’s ongoing displacements could amount to ethnic cleansing against the Syrian Kurdish population. Stresses that Turkey’s intervention has weakened international efforts against ISIL/Daesh;
Firmly condemns Turkey’s use of Syrian mercenaries in conflicts in Libya and Nagorno Karabakh, in violation of international law.”
The European Union cannot act pragmatically and legitimise an “occupying power” in Syria. The European Parliament rightly criticises what is happening in Turkey. The EU and the European Parliament differ on this and many other points. Just as the AKP-MHP in Syria does not comply with international law, they are also taking action in Turkey against the HDP and the democratic opposition.
- Ö.F. Gergerioglou stated that “it is not in our tradition to surrender”. Which will be the HDP’s strategy in order to confront the upcoming closure, defending democracy?
At the start, I spoke about the fact that the HDP has voters who know politically what kind of Turkey they want. The HDP is not a party that will end in prohibition. Moreover, the voters of the HDP are not measuring their political work according to the policies of AKP, but according to the struggle for freedom, democracy and the fulfillment of demands of the people in Turkey. The HDP sees itself as a growing idea in the face of repression and criminalization.
AKP might forbid our political party, but the ideas and the struggle for freedom and democracy will become even more organized. Hanna Arendt had said “The meaning of politics is freedom”. Thus, people fighting for freedom will pursue its meaning. With or without HDP – the idea of freedom will continue to grow.
AKP can hold off democracy for a while, but domestic and international developments will force the Government to become more democratic. And the political forces most prepared for democratization that are the Kurds and the HDP.
- Which message would you address to the Greek and Cyprus people?
In some of the responses, I’ve tried to describe how Kurdish rights are stolen. Not only Kurds but also Alevi’s, Christians (Armenians, Assyrians, Pontus), Yazidis, Circassians and all other groups in Turkey are denied their rights and freedom. all other groups in Turkey are denied their rights and freedom.
On behalf of those people, I can say that we should have an attitude of solidarity with the Greeks and the Cypriots, beyond undemocratic and nationalist reasons. The friendship between ethnic groups and peoples must not fall victim to governmental calculations. Therefore, in the future the friendship bonds between our people should become even more valuable.