By Gülistan Kılıç Koçyiğit, HDP deputy
To understand the political situation in Turkey, it is useful to look at some important turning points. To do so, let us begin here with a brief look at history. In 2002, the AKP came to power because of its advocacy of progressive democracy. Its rhetoric on issues such as accession to the European Union, women’s rights, the resolution of the Kurdish question by democratic means, and the protection and development of fundamental rights and freedoms was also positive. The discourse it led was supported by large segments of society. However, after the AKP came to power and secured its sinecures, it abandoned all its promises and began to pursue a different policy.
The most advanced discussion on the Kurdish question undoubtedly took place during the solution and negotiation process from 2013 to 2015. The very atmosphere that this created in society, with the prospect of peace on the horizon, strengthened people’s hopes for peace and they began to look to the future with more confidence. During this period, the desire for a common life in a common homeland grew in a large parts of society, and for the first time a feeling and a mindset of mutual understanding began to emerge among the peoples. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), an amalgamation of the Kurdish political movement and other opposition movements in Turkey, had the chance to present its statute and program and could count on the support of broad sections of society. When this development coincided with the social climate of the peace perspective, the HDP achieved a great success in the elections on June 7, 2015. This success of the HDP to enter the Grand National Assembly of Turkey with 13.2% of the votes and 80 deputies resulted in shaking all the common concepts and structures of the 100-year history of the Republic. We know that one of the consequences was the activation of the “hard core” of the state, and the entire system, with its finger on the red alert button, began to make plans to change the situation that had evolved. Equally affected by this success was the AKP government, which lost its absolute majority and thus its absolute rule for the first time since 2002. As a result, it believed that peace would mean defeat for it and that war, violence and conflict would result in its victory. Therefore, after the June 7 elections, it quickly abandoned its stance on a democratic solution of the Kurdish question. Once again, the AKP headed toward war, conflict and violence. Early elections were called for November 1. This was followed by a policy of violence, intimidation and the brutality of urban warfare, whereby society was supposed to be influenced so that the HDP would fail at the electoral hurdle. Even though the election did not fully meet its expectations, the AKP regained the strength necessary to govern on its own.
At the time, the rift between the AKP and the Gülen community, with which it had allied in 2002 and embarked on a common path, was also becoming increasingly acute. In fact, the coup attempt by the Gülen community on July 15, 2016, was intended to overthrow the government. The AKP government used this thwarted coup as a welcome lever for its own survival. AKP Chairman Tayyip Erdoğan stated that he considered this coup attempt a “mercy from God.” A state of emergency was declared on July 20, 2016. Under it, numerous unlawful decrees were issued, initiating a brutal process against all democratic structures, all opposition structures and media outlets.
During the same period, the appointment of mandatory administrators in HDP-ruled counties and municipalities began, and co-mayors and other elected officials were arrested. On November 4, 2016, there was a large-scale crackdown as part of the political genocide, during which numerous HDP deputies, including the party’s co-chairs Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, were simultaneously arrested and quickly placed in pre-trial detention. This trial represents a break in Turkey’s political history. For previously, parliamentary immunity had been unconstitutionally lifted from deputies of various parties, and subsequently only deputies and the co-chairs of the HDP were arrested and detained.
This political genocide operation is not only directed against the HDP, which has its own parliamentary group. We would like to explicitly point out that there is a very comprehensive liquidation and extermination process against the Kurdish women’s movement, the Kurdish and other oppositional press, and Kurdish associations. During the curfew [in Kurdish cities] that lasted from 2015 to 2016, there were numerous violations of rights, cities were bombed with heavy artillery, and civilians were murdered in the open streets. Dead bodies were not even allowed to be buried, and people holding out for days in the cities were condemned to hunger and thirst, which was intended to coerce them into surrendering. These extensive violations of rights and the policy of repression were due to the AKP’s desire to somehow remain in power and ensure its political survival.
After the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the AKP changed its power partners and took a new path through the alliance with the MHP and the Ergenekon structures. We clearly say that the common denominator of this alliance is the hostility towards the Kurds. This alliance has led to the resumption of a dirty war against the Kurdish people both throughout the country and beyond in the region. The AKP’s attitude towards the revolution in Rojava, its actions towards the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, and its defamation of all of Rojava’s political-representative structures as “terrorist” are just some of the political actions of this anti-Kurdish alliance in Kurdistan. The hostility and threats against the people in South Kurdistan during the time of the referendum there was a direct consequence of this anti-Kurdish mindset and behavior.
We should note that the foundations for the new alliance established by the AKP were laid before July 15, 2016, namely on June 7, 2015, and that the alliance gradually developed and intensified from July 15. The anti-Kurdish stance clearly shows that the idea of occupying all of Kurdistan is a remnant of the Misak-ı Milli National Pact of the Ottoman Empire and its successor, the Republic of Turkey. For this reason, Efrîn was attacked on January 20, 2018; and for the same reason, the occupation attacks on Gire Spî and Serêkaniyê took place. The cross-border operation [into Iraq/South Kurdistan], which began in April 2021 and is still ongoing, represents another implementation of this mindset. In summary, this means that the AKP, which seeks to destroy democratic politics and democratic mechanisms of representation at home, wants to destroy the achievements of the Kurdish people outside its borders and prevent a possible status for the Kurds with a war waged on several fronts.
Why a ban of the HDP?
The anti-Kurdish alliance resorts to all kinds of methods to push back the HDP, the largest organized and resistant structure in Turkey: mass imprisonments, systematic pressure on the activists in the HDP provincial and district groups and in the administrations, prevention of any action and political activity through police violence and a massive media embargo against the party. Day after day, the HDP is thus being criminalized. When, despite all these efforts, the AKP was unable to achieve the desired result, it took its last major step by finally requesting that the party be banned. The AKP, which has so far boasted that it has made party bans more difficult, is showing with this backward step how helpless and pathetic it really is.
The AKP-MHP alliance’s ability to govern has been in crisis for a very long time. However, this is not the only crisis: the presidential system that came into force on June 24, 2018, has also caused a major regime crisis. Then, in addition, the severe economic crisis and the social crisis were added, so we are now going through a period of multiple crises. The AKP is far from overcoming all these crises, because with each passing day it is increasingly losing its connection with the base and the approval of its voters.
Now, as the 2023 elections approach and pressure for early elections is growing, the AKP is trying to manage its leadership crisis with the help of new moves. A first clear step was the opening of the Kobanê trial. It is becoming clear that the AKP wants to achieve several results at the same time with this conspiracy trial: First, there is an AKP that cannot digest the defeat of the IS barbarians. Second, it is crystal clear that this trial is meant to intimidate those who stand shoulder to shoulder with the HDP and aims to isolate the HDP and the Kurdish people. Thus, the AKP-MHP alliance wants to end this trial quickly and thereby create a basis for the ban of the party. In particular, the policy of the small alliance partner MHP aims to ban the HDP. The General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court prepared the indictment and submitted it to the Constitutional Court, which accepted it on June 7, 2021. The HDP’s request for an extension of time to prepare the statement of defense was granted; the deadline is now November 7. The Peoples’ Democratic Party’s legal department has prepared its defense. Further preparations for the trial are ongoing.
We would like to emphasize that this is not a legal but a political trial. The indictment for the ban proceedings contains no legal basis whatsoever; we read in it only a list of actions and events in which MPs and party council members participated. We would also like to note that the speeches made by the MPs at the events are being criminalized and that the indictment was built on this. Thus, without any doubt, this is a political trial. Furthermore, we would like to point out that this procedure is a conspiracy that has no basis in any law, neither international nor national.
Why do AKP-MHP want to ban the HDP? Because the existence of the HDP is a serious threat to the AKP in political terms. This is because in the March 31, 2019 local elections, it became clear that the HDP’s political stance has a direct impact on the election results. This means that if the HDP nominates its own candidate in the first round of the presidential election and supports a joint opposition candidate in the second round, the AKP-MHP alliance will lose the election. That is why banning the HDP, which is likely to be followed by the frustration of its voters, and removing the ground for democratic politics is existential for the AKP. To solve this existential problem, the HDP must be banned at top speed before a possible early election or, at the latest, the timely election in 2023, and amendments to a number of electoral laws must be initiated.
Society in Turkey continues its fight for democracy despite repression
Since 2015, the society in Turkey has overcome many hurdles. Despite severe repression and persecution, the democratic resistance and peoples’ struggle have continued steadily. Although there were periods of calm, there was never a capitulation as the AKP wanted. On the contrary, we saw that fierce struggles were waged from below and at unexpected times resistance spread all over the country. This is what the AKP fears the most. It therefore violently suppresses even the smallest protest in order to prevent a new social uprising – like Gezi or the uprisings in Kurdistan.
In truth, we are dealing with a government that no longer has any social legitimacy and does nothing more than inflict pain, poverty and deprivation on all social classes. It is a rule that does nothing more than fill the pockets of a handful of capitalists and their supporters and plunder all the resources of the country. There are millions who are angry every day anew at the existence of these rulers. We know from experience that they play the nationalist card at the expense of the HDP in order to escape this anger and rage and to win the elections. We would like to emphasize that this politically motivated procedure to ban HDP is not socially supported and legitimized.
And this legitimacy problem exists not only in Turkey, but also vis-à-vis the international community and international institutions. Both the EU and the U.S. have stressed that they do not approve of the ban of the HDP and that this only pushes the country further in the anti-democratic direction. It could be argued that the AKP is also creating new problems for Turkey, which has had problems at the international level for some time. Merkel and Trump, who rushed to Erdoğan’s aid at every difficulty, are themselves no longer in power. And it is well known that the current president of the United States, Biden, does not simply accept Erdoğan’s policies. Therefore, it seems unlikely that a ban of the HDP by the AKP will receive support from the international community and its institutions.
The AKP does not want to ban and silence the HDP because it is strong itself, but on the contrary because the AKP is currently experiencing the phase of its greatest weakness. Simply taking this step shows its political weakness and the impasse in which it finds itself.
“Roadmap for Justice, Democracy and Peace”
The HDP opposes these repressive policies, mass arrests and even deadly attacks such as the assassination of Deniz Poyraz in the HDP party building in İzmir. Thus, throughout the summer, the HDP engaged in dialogue with the people through its co-chairs, party council members, deputies, and all provincial and district leaders. The proposals and analyses from the people were noted down and the result of the discussions was published in the “Roadmap for Justice, Democracy and Peace” on September 27. This position paper intervenes against the political line currently in force. In particular, the agenda sets itself apart from campaign rhetoric and focuses on long-term and systemic discussions. It emphasizes that the country’s problems are not primarily determined by who is in power, but that the fundamental problem is an undemocratic system. The declaration also states that a solution is only possible if there is democratic association on a democratic basis and structural discussions take place in which society participates. As a proposal for a solution, a position paper was presented with a variety of proposals and important principles, especially for the democratization of the country as well as for a social contract that includes all social groups and a wide variety of issues, from the democratic solution of the Kurdish question to the solution of the women’s question.
Thus, the HDP clearly shows that its focus is not on current politics and its own advantage, but on all peoples of Turkey and that the democratization of Turkey is its main concern. With this project, the party has once again shown that it is different from others with its principles, which have already been declared so many times, and with its policy of the third way. Once again, by trusting in its own strength and the support of the people, it challenges fascism. The HDP has once again declared that it has the will to solve all problems and that it is the real founding force of the future.
This article was first published in the November/December 2021 edition of the Kurdistan Report.