Opinion by Oihana ETXEBARIETA, Member of the Basque Parliament – EH Bildu and Pernando BARRENA, MEP The Left – EH Bildu
An enormous, half-full conference hall. Hundreds of police officers and military personnel take up half the space, and we international observers of the trial against the HDP are placed at the back; among journalists and parliamentarians and HDP parliamentarians. We don’t really understand what is going on, but thanks to the people who translate for us, we manage to put words to the images we see. The judge does not allow all the lawyers to enter, a clear example of how things are going to go in the trial from this moment on.
We managed to get in, which is something we had doubted, and even so, knowing that there were eyes observing the development of the trial, we saw that not only did the trial begin without the presence of all the lawyers, but that they had denied the people on trial the right to an initial plea. There was not a good translation of what the colleagues speaking in Kurdish said; the people jailed for this case who are outside Ankara followed the trial by video conference, with the signal dropping out, losing their voice and image all the time, etc.
The trial, which began on 26 April, had to be postponed due to the pandemic and lockdown declared in Turkey. It was re-activated on 18 May, and will continue on 14 June. We would like to be able to say that the work carried of by the defence for the accused drew attention to that fact that what they are being tried for is not a crime. We need to remember that these 108 people are being tried for messages they published on their social networks in 2014 offering encouragement to the fighters standing up to ISIS in Kobanî. When the world was watching Rojava and expressing gratitude for the citizen’s rebellion in the face of the barbarism of ISIS, Turkey was arresting and imprisoning people who were doing the same thing. They are accused of extolling terrorism and disseminating terrorist propaganda. This could result in everyone linked to the HDP being sentenced and for this sentence to be used as an excuse to be able to outlaw the party that unites them. A party, let’s not forget, that is the third largest force in Turkey and which governs in many municipalities (which have been hijacked by the AKP).
Faced with this situation, we cannot simply stand by with our arms crossed. In the Basque Country, we are very familiar with this kind of behaviour, closing media, political parties, organisations… due to their political ideology, trying to link them to apology for terrorism, and terrorism itself. In this globalised world, we can guarantee that “when they came for the Basques, I did not say anything because I was not Basque” does not apply to our friends in the HDP. They were always there, they always supported us, they always walked alongside us. As for ourselves, we did not hold our tongues “when they came for the Kurds”.
It is curious that when European institutions periodically review compliance with European demands towards Turkey as candidate state to become a member of the European Union, so few voices are heard in their favour. More than twenty-one years have gone by since Turkey’s status as aspirant member; and in particular, in matters relating to the protection of human rights and individual freedoms, Turkey has clearly failed because its backward motion is more than obvious. Neither is the European Union in a position to judge Turkey in matters regarding human rights. We only have to recall the bloody reality of those refugee camps on the EU’s external borders, or the thousands of migrants who have lost their lives on the Mediterranean faced with the passivity of the Union. Perhaps that is why both of them, Turkey and the European Union, were able to reach an agreement five years ago, with large amounts of money involved, to block the entrance of refugees in Europe. And perhaps also, due to that democratic sensibility with room for improvement belonging to Turkey and the EU, Europe continues to look the other way when news of the Turkish government’s repression against any expression of the Kurdish national situation or simply political left-wing dissidence reaches the world stage.
Europe gives priority to geopolitical interests over compliance with Human Rights. In the case of Turkey, it maintains a Customs Union despite Turkey being an authoritarian regime; Human Rights clauses don’t apply here.
The process of outlawing the HDP is an immeasurable abuse, but Turkey is playing with an advantage. It knows the ECHR will cancel it when the time comes because it is totally null and void from any point of view. But by then, the events will have become established facts. That is why political and institutional condemnation is more necessary than ever and involves saying that Turkey acts how it acts because Europe allows it to.
That is why, from the different institutions in which we are involved, EH Bildu has made statements, held debates and laid down resolutions against this macro-trial. We cannot turn our backs, and we must use all the amplifiers within our reach to get ourselves seen and heard, to express that the Kurdish people, the HDP and all those people repressed by Erdogan’s authoritarianism can count on our solidarity. And not only from the institutions. Together with the popular and social movement in favour of a free Kurdistan, we’ll head into the streets and raise awareness about our concern and solidarity. And today, we send this message to anyone reading this, we cannot leave them on their own. They are fighting against totalitarianism and fanaticism, they are fighting for a free society, based on social justice, feminism and ecology. Their achievements are our achievement, and as our feminist colleagues so rightly say, if it affects one of us, it affects all of us.