Washington Kurdish Institute
December 6, 2016, by Yousif Ismael
After Turkey’s ruling party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), ended the peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), military clashes once again became the daily reality in many of Turkey’s Kurdish-majority areas, resulting in death and displacements of thousands of Kurds. Additionally, the government’s latest political purge, in which the state used the country’s legal system to detain and arrest elected Kurdish mayors and other politicians have left Kurds with no voice in the country. We spoke with Mr. Mehmet Yuksel, the representative of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) to Washington concerning the latest developments in Turkey.
What has happened in Turkey following the coup attempt? What was HDP’s position concerning the coup attempt?
We, the HDP [Peoples’ Democratic Party], immediately declared that we were against the attempted coup on July 15, 2016. The Republic of Turkey has suffered from the coups in the past. Military interference is not a solution for the country’s future. We have warned the government much earlier that, if it continues its anti-democratic practice against the people of Turkey, the risk of a military coup is likely high.
We suggested, after the failed military coup, to all political parties to come together and work together to bring stability and peace to the Republic of Turkey. Unfortunately, the HDP has been excluded from roundtable talks, and other opposition parties legitimized the authoritarianism of Pres. Erdogan and, as a result, it has obviously, increased.
Pres. Erdogan argues that he does not have a problem with Kurdish people, but with PKK. How do you respond?
That statement is far from the reality since the Kurdish people are suffering from Pres. Erdogan’s oppression. All Kurdish television channels, including a children’s channel, was shut down, over 14,000 Kurdish doctors were dismissed from their positions, 350,000 Kurdish people have been displaced, and 2,000 killed. Kurdish cities, towns, and villages have been destroyed one-by-one.
The HDP is targeted by Pres. Erdogan’s administration more than any other parties. As a democratically-elected party, the second largest opposition party which represents over six million voters in Turkey, the HDP has seen both of its co-chairs arrested and over 6,000 HDP members including dozens of lawmakers and elected mayors arrested as well. The facts and numbers point to the fact that Kurdish people are now the number one target of the government.
What are HDP’s plans in the short and long term in the reaction to the arrests?
It is never easy to work with a government that has no checks and balances and with a broken judicial system, once that has restricted freedom of the press and arrested journalists. The government came to the point of cutting off the internet when arresting Kurdish mayors and other politicians. Our immediate goal is a release of people who have been arrested on the false pretenses. The policies of the current administration during the post-coup period has produced more victims than the military coup of 1980. In the long run, we would like to see the Republic of Turkey become more democratic, to make it a home for every citizen of the country.
Since the halting of the peace process between the PKK and the government, what is the situation in the Kurdish provinces?
As for the effects on the Kurdish provinces, and we can now say that the situation in the southeast of Turkey (Kurdistan) is no better than Syria. Houses have been completely destroyed and, in some areas, a siege and has now been now replaced by a state of emergency. The conditions of the state of emergency are worse than in the war zone. Children cannot go to schools, people have been shot without any warning and, in some cases, left on the ground to bleed to death. Some families have not been allowed to access and transport the remains of their loved one for the burial. All of these atrocities began once the peace process was halted.
How about the other opposition parties? What are their positions?
The MHP, Turkey’s nationalist party, is happy with the current situation because Erdogan is doing whatever they could not do against Kurds. Using the coup as a pretense to eliminate the opposition inside their own party, they are now helping Erdogan to bring about the presidential system by working with the AKP on the new constitution. After the coup, the CHP begin to work with the AKP, but they do understand that after targeting the HDP, the new wave of authoritarianism will turn to them, but they are still unsure about what they have to do.
What you hope to see from the new administration in the US?
We hope that the new administration will see that Erdogan’s Turkey is moving towards increasing authoritarianism, and likely to further destabilize the country and transform to become more like Iran. If the United States wants to keep its strategic ally in the Middle East, it should seriously urge Turkey to resume the peace process in order to stop the bloodshed and bring back stability.
During the last visit of your Co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, he warned about a possibility of a civil war which would break up in Turkey. Is this now the case?
The country is very polarized right now, and Kurdish areas are no different than Syrian cities. If Erdogan continues using the coup to repress the country, Turkey may soon face the civil war between secularists/nationalists and Erdogan’s followers.
Mr. Mehmet Yuksel is the current representative of the HDP in the USA. He was born in Turkey and grew up in Denmark. For the last 16 years, he has been active in the movement for democracy and human rights in Europe.