The HDP Europe’s interview for Turkish online news portal – gazeteduvar.com.tr‘s reporter and columnist Ayşegül Karakülhancı.
The following is the English translation of the Turkish publication.
“As a result, they are (European Politicians and organisations) not just in solidarity with a political party that is under repression. The political philosophy of the HDP and the political tradition on which it rests provide hope for many political parties, political parties and movements. The HDP strives for a democratic nation solution so that people can live on a free and democratic basis for the different religious communities and peoples living in Turkey. This paradigm statement both attracts attention and deserves support.”
The European Parliament and the public openly oppose arrests and pressure against HDP elected officials in Turkey. While the heads of governments of EU countries and the EU leadership prefer not to raise these issues during their meetings with the AK Party government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. We discussed these contradictions and inconsistencies with Devriş Çimen, who has been the HDP’s representative in Europe since the end of 2019. The HDP’s activities are becoming increasingly visible in Europe, and how European policy and parliamentarians have established a relationship with the HDP.
HDP Europe has recently increased its visibility in Europe. ls that a new strategy?
If the Europe of the HDP has gained visibility, it is because of the politics developed by the authoritarian regime in Turkey. From 2015, there has been constant war and systematic repression. Since then, there have been over 20,000 detained in the HDP, including at least 10,000 arrested. Even though there are those who are released after certain periods, more than 4,000 HDP members are still in prison, including parliamentarians, mayors, PM members, provincial and district leaders. In such a field, a more active public opinion on HDP is currently being revealed in Europe. The primary objective of the Erdogan regime, which has already developed attacks with all state institutions, is to make the HDP dysfunctional. In that case, we must further assess the possibilities and opportunities in Europe. We are trying to build into the agenda of the EU, the European Parliament, politics and the public.
Up to 95% of the press in Turkey is controlled by the Erdogan regime. Therefore, Europeans do not believe that the information coming from here is reliable. Europe relies more on information provided by the opposition press and the HDP. The HDP is sort of the proper source of information here. When the European public evaluates what is happening in Turkey, it cares about the HDP’s interpretation. Therefore, as a European representative, we are trying to respond to the growing interest through a coordinated effort with the HDP’s Committee on Foreign Relations. Nevertheless, the interest aroused by this situation is not the good work of the HDP, but the bad situation of Turkey. When power in Turkey is poor, that inevitably happens. We have an authoritarian regime that gets everybody’s reaction.
Peoples, religion and belief communities, women, university students, academics, lawyers, almost all youth in Turkey have become victims of the present regime. Therefore, foreigners are trying to understand what is happening in Turkey. They may find some of the answers within the HDP. On the other hand, there are dozens of parties, hundreds of parliamentarians, politicians, academics and intellectuals who are in contact with the HDP in the context of congresses, conferences, campaigns etc. We provide information flow and discuss these segments. Of course, we transfer information in accordance with the HDP paradigm. As a result, they are not just in solidarity with a political party that is under repression. The political philosophy of the HDP and the political tradition on which it rests provide hope for many political parties, political parties and movements.
The HDP strives for a democratic nation solution so that people can live on a free and democratic basis for the different religious communities and peoples living in Turkey. This paradigm statement both attracts attention and deserves support.
How do you get in touch with the European Parliament? Are any members of Parliament with whom you work?
As the European representative of the HDP, there are numerous legislators with whom we have relations in the European Parliament. But as you can appreciate, it is both difficult and unnecessary to reach them all in a parliament with over 700 members. After the 2019 elections, there is a Kurdish friendship group made up of members of three different factions in the European Parliament, who are very sensitive to the current situation in Turkey. The Friendship Group communicates and works with parliamentarians from various factions, as well as with members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs. We have facilitation studies related to issues of concern to them and developments that have taken place again. We’re relaying and discussing what’s going on.
Of course, as I mentioned before, information is very important here. To this end, while using the official website, social media and various informational opportunities, the people concerned can learn what is happening in Turkey. How the pressure exerted by the regime against the HDP rises, the policies of violence, the war and what to do with all this. However, we are not restricting our work to the European Parliament alone. In the countries of the European Union, we are trying to reach political parties, parliamentarians, the public, friends in those countries. There is a strong interest in the politics and the determination of the struggle represented by the HDP. A last Basque parliamentarian said: “In the case of the HDP, the Kurds, the right and the left can unite.
How is Turkish politics discussed in the European Parliament? Can you tell us that based on your observations and the meetings you had in person?
In recent years, the Erdogan regime has used the expression “New Turkey”. This statement stands for a paradigm based on a single-minded, nationalist, Islamist, extortionist, one-man system. All their efforts are to institutionalise it. The democratic Turkey of which we are speaking is founded on democracy, pluralism, freedom of peoples and religious communities, freedom of women, ecology. We are fighting for this and we are paying a heavy price in the aftermath of this struggle. The fact that more than 4,000 members are in prison today is not because they have committed crimes, but because they can prevent the larger organization of the adoption of world views by society.
When the HDP entered parliament with 13 percent in the June 7th, 2015 elections, there were representatives of different people, beliefs-religions and political movements that we mentioned and were ignored and blocked among the 80 deputies. It was just a little picture of democratic Turkey. They also interrupted the dialogue and resolution process with the PKK and Abdullah Ocalan on the democratisation of Turkey at that time. The problem and the systematic repression and violence which followed are the fear of democratisation. Following the developments of the time, either the way of democratisation in Turkey would be open, or chaos would be preferred. The choice came in favour of chaos. Today’s “New Turkey” is an expression of chaos, oppression, isolation, captivity and darkness. It developed policies on the basis of hostility towards the Kurds, both inside and outside. Cities have been destroyed. It has used and continues to use the gangs it recruited in Syria as the most fundamental tool of its diplomacy. This is the form of this dark painting, which we refer to as “New Turkey”. In this case, their external contacts are also disrupted and are now in a time-consuming position.
Over the past four months alone, Turkey has been a negative actor in the European Parliament. Turkish society deserves no such thing. Unfortunately, such an image emerges when you support Erdogan’s policy or stay quiet. If democratisation is truly desired, which is compulsory, then the society, the different political sectors, the opposition must also fight for freedom.
How was the closure of the HDP and the Kobani case debated in the European Parliament?
Last December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) announced its ruling declaring that all political prisoners, particularly former HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas, was being punished politically. On 21 January, the European Parliament held a session of the General Assembly of 590 MEPs on human rights in Turkey, the situation of Demirtas and other political prisoners. During the session, it adopted a draft resolution calling for the liberation of political prisoners and respect for fundamental rights in Turkey, in particular Selahattin Demirtas.
On March 11, 2021, the EP resolution titled ’10 years after the Syrian conflict-Uprising’ described Turkey as a force that violated international law, committed war crimes and called for withdrawal from Syria. Before long, Turkey was on the agenda on March 17th with the lifting of Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu’s immunity and the closure case against the HDP, and a few days later, the decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention. Also on 25 and 26 March, the EU leaders’ summit was marked by provocations from Turkey, in particular as regards the Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus. Finally, when the closure of the HDP came up and with the Kobani case, there were messages of solidarity and support with the HDP of many politicians and parliamentarians from Europe. Most EP parliamentarians and dozens of parties, movements and institutions in Europe have been informed, in particular because of the Kobani case of 26 April. Everyone understood that this is not a legal case, but a kind of revenge case made by political instruction. Therefore, it became evident that the so-called Kobani case was intended both to criminalize Kobani’s resistance and to further trap the HDP.
They said that the case was political, that they would not allow it, that they would continue to be supportive of the HDP. You will remember that in 2014, there were acts of solidarity and property related to Kobani in over 60 countries on five continents. The resistance of Kobani has reached a very positive point in human memory. Now, six years later, you object and try to eclipse this glorious resistance, the honor of humanity will condemn you again. I think the politicians who precipitated this fictitious affair behind the scenes are not familiar with the history. The truth is too lean to be distorted. If they attempt to make the events that have cost history and humanity, especially if a resistance like Kobani attempts to be the subject of a lawsuit, the world public will have an attitude to say and hold on to.
There has been an intense political and public reaction not only in Europe but worldwide. Prior to that, there was a joint call by the leaders of several political parties and also the Kurdish Friendship Group in the European Parliament.
Do you think the reaction will increase during the legal process and will be reflected in the President of the European Commission and the President of the Council? They went to Ankara last month, but will they personally announce their support for Kobani’s case?
In the war between right and wrong in Kobani, right reigned and made history. All the supporters of the Kobani cause will continue to follow and show their solidarity. We don’t know if EU institutions will be involved. Because the EU does not have a holistic policy. While the European Parliament has given a very serious response, the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council are pursuing a completely different policy. It must be pointed out that the European Union is an economic formation. These institutions are often instrumentalist with a view to the economic opening of the policy.
As I mentioned, 590 members in the EP are deciding that Selahattin Demirtas and all politicians should be released, but the two EU leaders are not even talking about going to Turkey. Then you think they’re looking at parliament in the form of leaders. It is a reflection of a strange conflict of interest that gives a kind of bonus to all the undemocratic practices of the Erdogan regime. When you deal with a system that has lost its legitimacy, you give it legitimacy again. Only some EU countries, especially Germany, have always offered political, economic and military support to avoid the collapse of the Erdogan regime. That has been going on since the Refugee Agreement of 2016.
One of the major agendas of the last two EU leaders’ summit meetings was linked to Turkey’s drilling activities in the eastern Mediterranean. We’re going to impose sanctions, we’re going to take drastic measures, and so on. They’re misleading people. They even organize their influence on the Turkish regime with carrot-stick politics. They say, “If Turkey continues like this, we will use the instruments we have.” In fact, we’re curious, let them explain what these instruments are, so let the public know what they are. But immediately after saying those things, there are two European leaders who go to the feet of Erdogan. It’s like throwing a lifeline at this regime that’s drowning in evil. This is highly hypocritical politics. An important part of the democratic population, the press and politics in Europe sees, criticises and does not accept this. But that does not translate into an anti-regime policy in higher authorities.
Conversely, at the expense of democracy and the usurpation of the rights of the peoples, they are developing a mutual, unprincipled policy with the Erdogan regime. The policies of war and violence of this regime are supported, which, more recently, Italian Prime Minister Draghi summed up the policies of EU Erdogan: “Let’s name it, we also need people we can call ‘dictators’.” So they know what it is, but they build the relationship with the Dictator on necessity. They were not given seats, they staged the ingeniously constructed theatre with explanations such as diplomatic indecency. There is no sanctions here, but rather support for the policies of war. As a sanction, we do not say that they should take decisions that will punish Turkish society. We want the EU to stop supporting this dark regime. If they do not stop the support, the Erdogan-Bahceli alliance will continue to practice the policy of war, internally and externally.
As the EU meets its needs through the “Dictator”, this policy costs us, the peoples, the Kurds, their lives. While this is the case abroad, the equation established in Turkey on the rights and freedoms of the ‘Kurds’ brings the misfortune of all and live in this gloomy image. Neither this regime can support this situation nor be endorsed by remaining silent with its hypocritical EU policy. The solution is to face the past, to get rid of the regime that tries to institutionalize all the evils of the past in its own politics, and to quickly transition to a democratic Turkey, to put freedoms into a constitutional framework and to make society the owner of democracy and freedoms. This can be a democratic Turkey for everyone.