There is no doubt that what we are witnessing in Turkey consists of a violation of democratic procedures, personal and political rights, and the country’s international obligations as a member of international organisations such as the Council of Europe.
The EU has witnessed a gradually augmenting pressure against the HDP by the Turkish government, the continuous struggle to characterise it as a “terrorist party” and the claims of Turkish officials regarding its ban. This whole process was followed by the latest attack against the third largest party of the country made by the Chief Public Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation that filed a lawsuit with the Constitutional Court to ban the HDP, as being a party that fosters and supports terrorism.
On the very same day, the government — on the basis of political calculations and in violation of the law — stripped HDP member of parliament Kocaeli Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu of his status as deputy. As an activist and a politician, Gergerlioğlu fought against the violation of human rights in Turkey and has dedicated many years in the struggle against discrimination both in his electoral district and in the whole country. But his actions were considered revolutionary and he was accused of “fostering terrorist actions” after a controversial social media post. The fact that his immunity was lifted even though his case is still pending in court renders this whole act even more scandalous from the part of the Turkish coalition government.
Unfortunately, HDP politicians have been the victims of political prosecution many times
Dilek Hatipoğlu was sentenced to 16 years and 3 months in prison on 25 March 2016, and her sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court, whilst Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ are already in prison. Also, the party’s deputies that are under attack are Fatma Kurtulan, Garo Paylan, Hüda Kaya, Sezai Temelli, Pero Dündar, Serpil Kemalbay Pekgözegü, deputy chairpersons of the HDP’s parliamentary group Meral Danış Beştaş and Hakkı Saruhan Oluç, and its co-chair Pervin Buldan. It is interesting to take note that more than 800 summaries of proceedings have been brought to the Turkish Parliament for HDP deputies since the 2018 elections.
This attempt by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to ban HDP is just the tip of the iceberg, since all these years there have been a series of attempts to marginalise, victimise, imprison and even torture politicians, academics, artists and citizens in Turkey. Despite witnessing it all the international community has chosen and still chooses to remain silent.
It needs to be mentioned that last December the European Court of Human Rights’ Grand Chamber ruled against Turkey on Demirtaş’ case, asking for his immediate release. They noted that the Turkish government pursued an ulterior purpose of preventing him from carrying out his political activities, depriving voters of their elected representative, and “stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate: the very core of the concept of a democratic society.” In spite of this decision there was not sufficient pressure put on Turkey for his release.
So, by meeting no significant European or international reactions the Turkish president continues to instrumentalise prosecutions and imprisonment as a means of intimidation and removal of his opponents from the political arena of the country. As long as this practice isn’t criticised and condemned by all democratic countries, pressure and prosecutions will continue.
Attempts like trying to ban the HDP and denying the will of millions of people should not be tolerated by anyone
Attempts like this show that democracy, respect of human rights and freedom of speech are elements that are at stake in Erdoğan’s Turkey and this is why European and international democratic forces need to react immediately, not only to support and show solidarity to HDP but, also, in a struggle to save democracy itself.
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Fotini Bakadima has authored this article on behalf of the CC.
Fotini is an MP of MeRA25 (Piraeus 2nd District), and a member of DiEM25’s Coordinating Collective.
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