History of Kurdish political parties in Turkey

The first pro-Kurdish party, the People’s Labor Party (Halkin Emek Partisi, HEP), was established on June 7, 1990, by Fehmi Isiklar and nine other Kurdish MPs in Turkey. The HEP joined the Social Democrat Party (SHP) for Turkey’s 1991 general elections and gained 22 seats in the Turkish Grand Assembly.

In July 1993, the HEP was banned by Turkey’s Constitutional Court.

Following its disbandment, Kurdish MPs founded the Freedom and Democracy Party (OZDEP) in May 1993. On November 23, OZDEP was also outlawed and was succeeded by the Democracy Party (DEP).

In March 1994, the Turkish parliament lifted the immunity of six DEP MPs, including the first Kurdish female MP, Leyla Zana. They were later sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of treason and affiliation with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Other members escaped to Europe and joined the establishment of the Kurdistan Parliament in Exile in Brussels.
On June 16, 1994, the DEP was disbanded by the Constitutional Court.

With each banned Kurdish party, a substitute party was formed.

The People’s Democracy Party (HADEP) was founded on May 11, 1994, with Murat Bozlak as the elected leader. HADEP was the first Kurdish party to participate in the 1995 and 1999 elections. It did not, however, meet the 10 percent required threshold and thus did not win any seats–although it was dominant party in the Kurdish region. In the 1999 local elections, it won 37 municipalities across the Kurdish region, including seven major Kurdish cities.
Yet HADEP’s fate was the same as its predecessors, and it was outlawed by the Turkish Constitutional Court on March 13, 2003. In addition, 46 of its founding members were banned from political activities.

Next, the Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP) was established. DEHAP gained around seven percent of the total votes in Turkey in 2002. Despite its total votes numbering around three million, which could have translated to more than 30 MPs, it did not succeed in entering the Turkish parliament.

The Constitutional Court opened a case against the DEHAP, but the party later merged with the Democratic Society Party (DTP) led by veteran Kurdish politician Ahmet Turk and Aysel Tugluk, one of Ocalan’s lawyers. The DTP did not participate in the 2007 elections, but its candidates ran independently. It secured 22 seats in the Turkish parliament on its first attempt and was accused by the Turkish government of being a political wing of the PKK. In the 2009 local elections, the DTP won mayorships in 100 cities and towns in the Kurdish region. The party was banned by Turkey’s Constitutional Court on December 11, 2009. In addition, its co-chairs, Turk and Tugluk, were stripped of their parliamentary immunity and barred from membership in any political party for five years.

The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) was created in 2008, before the DTP was closed, and many Kurdish MPs joined. BDP candidates ran independently as well, and the party secured 36 seats in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.
Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) is the eighth successive Kurdish political party in Turkey. Its goal was to find a democratic solution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey through peaceful means in order to secure the fundamental rights of the Kurds. All of its predecessors were outlawed by Turkey’s Constitutional Court.