HDP is the people’s alternative in Turkey

Behdad Bordbar

Interview with the spokesperson of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Europe, Saruhan Oluç

After the Kurdistan Workers Party's (PKK) imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan made a call to hunger strikers to put an end to their protests "as they have achieved their purpose," the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Hakkari MP Leyla Güven has announced that she has ended her hunger strike, which lasted for 200 days. During this period eight protesters died while they were on hunger strike. The HDP is Turkey’s third largest political party backed by Kurdish and other ethnic minorities, leftists and progressive groups. The HDP has been the only political party to have candidates from the LGBTQ community in Turkey as well as an equal number of men and women as their parliamentary candidates. In the recent local election of Turkey, the HDP strategically didn’t introduce any candidates from Istanbul in order to polarize the election in favor of the main opposition candidate from the Republican People’s Part, CHP. The HDP is playing a pivotal role in this turbulent political atmosphere of Turkey, and we assume they’re going to inspire Kurdish activists in other parts of Kurdistan: Bashur, Rojava and Rojhelat.

This interview with with the spokesperson of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Europe, Saruhan Oluç, was coducted by Behdad Bordbar for Nawext website.


Q: Turkey’s parliament approved a government-backed bill which stripped lawmakers of their immunity from prosecution. It provided an opportunity to target pro-Kurdish and dissident MPs. Your party members have been imprisoned. For example, Mr. Demirtaş has been in jail for more than two and a half years, and even though he didn’t have a fair chance to participate in presidential elections, he decided to run for elections. Since the elections in Turkey have not produced much democratic outcomes, and they have usually benefited the ruling party AKP, can you tell us why you still insist in participating in elections?

A: Yes, in Turkey we can't say elections take place under democratic, equal and fair conditions. The AKP uses all the means of the state and the media. However, despite all the rigging and violations, the election process cannot be fully controlled by Erdoğan and his AKP party. The AKP loses power in the eyes of public with every election. If Erdoğan could, he himself wouldn't go to elections. In the name of legitimacy of his autocratic and repressive rule, bearing the title of “elected” is the only thing that he has. That's why he goes to the elections. We also see these electoral processes as opportunity to broaden the democratic political area, to spread the struggle and to strengthen the social opposition.

Do you think it is possible for the HDP to boycott elections if the pressures continue?

For the last three years, the oppression against the HDP and other critical voices in Turkey have dramatically increased. Up until now, more than ten thousand HDP members and executives have been detained and nearly 6,000 have been arrested. However, this did not prevent us from succeeding in every election. The HDP is Turkey’s people’s only alternative against the AKP’s anti-pluralistic policies. Therefore, boycotting elections would mean a huge injustice to our peoples. In addition, if we do not participate in the elections especially in Kurdistan region, that means we would give election victory to AKP on a silver platter, because in that region there is no other strong party other than us and the AKP.

Let me bring in another topic; what do you think about the future of civil war in Syria? Do you have any hopes that Turkey withdraws and stops militaristic interventions?

The Syrian civil war will continue to affect not only the Middle East but also the world politics at least in the midterm. As long as the foreign forces like Turkey keep meddling in this war, it’s not possible to reach a stable solution in near future. Acting with hostility towards the Kurds, the Turkish government has adopted a strategy in which it sways between the US and Russia only to prevent Kurds getting any legal and constitutional status. But beyond that, Turkey has further complicated Syria with its direct and indirect support to a number of groups coming from jihadist traditions.

Frankly, I do not expect any retreat from Turkey before local elections. Because as we have seen in the last few years, Erdoğan has adopted an election campaign method in which he uses the nationalist sentiments - based on fake security concerns mainly about Kurdish foes - to boost the support behind him. However, it seems unlikely that he will attempt a wide range operation as he did in the beginning of 2014 against Afrin. Maybe he can stage a small military show to save face. Turkey has already invaded a small piece of Syria according to the international law, so eventually it will be forced to withdraw. Staying longer in Syria will cost Turkey a heavy price.

Turkey has been involved in a devastating regional competition with Saudi Arabia on one hand and with Iran on the other, two non-democratic states hostile to each other. This competition has played partly in Syria. Its results were more suffering for people of Syria. What is your party’s position? Do you have any proposals that might ease the conflict in the region?

For Turkey and the Middle East, the HDP itself is one of the vivid example of the experience of living in equality and peace. The main problem of the Middle East originates from the present map which was drawn 100 years ago by foreign powers that ignored the social structure and peoples of this region. The West's bizarre hate-love affair with the Middle East has deterred the situation. The solution is simple, but both Middle Eastern and Western states oppose this solution. De-centralization of power and sharing it with local administrations would be an important step to solve the problems in our region. In a region such as the Middle East, which is home to various religions and peoples, insisting on centralized states leads only to the crises that can eventually reach to the other parts of the world, as we have witnessed in the last century.

Killing of Jamal Khashoggi provided a chance for Turkey to play the role of a good police concerned about freedom of expression. Would you please tell us about hundreds of activists and journalists behind bars?

International community also knows the real reason behind the Turkey's insistence of Khashoggi’s case. The regional conjuncture and rivalry is the main reason for that. If they could get the concessions from Saudi Arabia, they would sweep Khashoggi's murder under the carpet from the beginning. Why do we say so? because Turkey is the world's leading persecutor of journalists now. Erdoğan, who seemed touched by the brutally murder of Khashoggi, has himself kept more than 100 journalists in jail just because they criticized him. The press is not free in Turkey, and freedom of expression is trampled. Today, you may end up in prison just because of a single tweet that you tweeted.

What were the socio-economic impacts of the coup attempt in 2016 and the declaration of the state of emergency on ordinary people?

Turkey is in crisis in every sense. First, there is a governance crisis. Since Erdoğan has tied all institutions to himself, the state institutions have gradually become non- functional. The judiciary is entirely under the control of Erdoğan's government. Executive and legislative powers and check-balance mechanisms are also dysfunctional. Not only Erdoğan opponents, but all the citizens in Turkey including AKP supporters, are under pressure and fear for themselves. Complaining about the economic crisis, saying something about the American Dollar's rise against the Turkish Lira has become an offense in the eye of the government. As you may know Turkey has a history full of military coups. And this time we are experiencing a civilian coup. But Turkey’s community is now a kind of boiling cauldron, and looking at France could be a good idea to guess what will be next if it reaches the boiling point.

02 Jun, 2019