The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey has been subject to systemic torments by the Erdogan government for years. The most recent of which is the possible immunity revokement of 11 HDP Members of Parliament that would lead to their prosecution. The cabinet accuses them of terrorism, but the faction rejects this notion.
In June of this year, Parliament already voted in favour of revoking the parliamentary positions of HDP members Musa Farisoğulları and Leyla Güven, which lead to their detainment and a decrease in the party’s seats to 58. On 22 October, the Turkish police jailed four more deputies after raids on the HDP headquarters and its district office in Yenişehir. Hülya Alökmen Uyanık, Zeyat Ceylan, Kasım Kaya and Remziye Sızıcı have been arrested.
The foundation of these revokements was laid in 2016, when, through an AK party controlled parliamentary majority, it was decided that Members of Parliament (MPs) who face investigation would not be immune to prosecution anymore. This meant that 101 MPs of the HDP and the main opposition faction, Republican People’s Party (CHP), as well as 37 others would be subject to this new bill. Different European bodies expressed their concerns because even though every political bloc had deputies who were being scrutinized, the HDP was “disproportionally effected”.
Erdogan and his government have accused the HDP to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is categorised as a terrorist organisation, amongst others, by Turkey, the European Union and the United States. Even though the HDP is a pro-Kurdish faction, it rejects any connection with the PKK or terrorism in general as they stand for democracy, minority rights, secularism and feminism.
Supervising peace while condemning those who asked for it
Even though the stances of the HDP and its members are peaceful, many of their views are turned in such a way by the government or its supporters that they not only live with a constant fear of being prosecuted, but also become targets of public hatred. HDP MP Garo Paylan proved this when he spoke out about the war between Azerbaijan, ally of Turkey, and Armenia about the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Paylan, being Turkish-Armenian, insisted on a ceasefire since he believed that peace would be the best outcome for both countries. He also spoke out against the Turkish government making the situation worse than it already was. And when Armenia attacked one of the biggest cities in Azerbaijan, Paylan condemned this assault as well. Nevertheless, he was still called out in a column of Hürriyet daily newspaper. Paylan thinks that the author, Ahmet Hakan, was forced to write the article by officials, although he did not specify who exactly. In addition, the HDP MP was targeted in the Sabah newspaper, which stated that he committed treason and was pro-Armenian. How dangerous such publications are, can be seen when back in 2015, Kurdish human rights lawyer Tahir Elçi was murdered after being the subject of a television programme.
On 10 November 2020, a new ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan was successfully brokered by Russia in which Turkey will play a roll of supervising. In other words, Turkey is expected to play a role in the truce, while condemning those who called for it in the first place.
The Kobani protests
Even before 2016, many arrests of HDP members have been ordered such as mayors and sympathisers. A good example is the 2014 Kobane protests in which more than 40 people were killed and over 80 were arrested. The demonstrations happened because Deash had started military action in the Syrian city of Kobani, that lead to 200 thousand Syrians fleeing to Turkey. The Turkish government did not allow Kurdish volunteers and militia to fight for Kobane. Thousands of Kurds, being upset that they could not participate in combat, protested peacefully for days. President Erdogan answered with violence by using tear gas and water cannons, but blamed the deaths on the HDP. At the time of the protests, the MPs were still immune to prosecution and could therefore not be jailed. However, when this was changed in 2016, many of the HDP deputies were rounded up retroactively. Since then, at least 17 of the party’s MPs have been dismissed of jailed. Pleads to be released have not been granted, but political activity from prison continues. Former co-leader Selahattin Demirtas even campaigned for the 2018 presidential elections from his cell.