A total of 108 Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) members are once again in court for inciting acts of violence in Turkey regarding the Islamic State’s (ISIS) siege of Kobane in 2014. Incarcerated on terrorism charges from the same case, the pro-Kurdish HDP’s former co-chair and 2014 presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş made his defence on Tuesday as part of the sixteenth hearing, held in Ankara.
Pointing out the political reasons behind their trial, Demirtaş called on Turkey to begin negotiations with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan to solve Turkey’s century-old question of the Kurdish reality.
In prolonged pre-trial detention since his arrest in 2016, Demirtaş said they were put on a biased trial and called the lawsuit a political genocide, in which “those prosecuted are the politicians who go against Turkey’s official ideology based on the denial of Kurds.”
Demirtaş argued that the Republic of Turkey’s founding philosophy embodied pluralistic discourses to include Kurds, Alevis and Circassians in Turkey’s War of Independence, emphasising the southern region of Kurdistan was being discussed within the borders of the National Pact, but this was overturned in Lausanne and the 1924 Constitution and the official ideology of Turkification was then revealed.
“We all must learn,” he added. “We must end the suffering we have inflicted on each other for a hundred years. In the resolution process at the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, the demand for a solution with liberties and without blood had been increased. The resolution process was the very desire to actualise the founding philosophy of the [Turkish] Republic. We wanted the Turkish state to treat its Kurdish people honestly and equally so that the Kurds would not throw stones at their own state.”
Demirtaş addressed Abdullah Öcalan as the authority for the resolution within his call for dialogue, saying, “The entity built on racism has already been destroyed. Now is the time for change.”
Better known as the Kobane trial, the lawsuit was brought against the HDP members due to their call to protest against the ISIS siege of Kobane, the Kurdish-majority province in northeast Syria and their call for solidarity with the people of Kobane.
Based on those statements on their social media posts, HDP party members are accused of initiating the events that took place on 6-7 October 2014 in Turkey’s largest cities and those heavily populated by Kurds, resulting in 46 deaths.
While the investigation into the protests began in 2014, the indictment was presented in December 2020 and the trial started in April 2021.
Among the defendants are Figen Yüksekdağ, HDP’s Co-Chair at that time, and Central Executive Board (MYK) members and administrators, such as Gülten Kışanak, Sebahat Tuncel, Sırrı Süreyya Önder, Ayhan Bilgen, Ayla Akat Ata, Emine Ayna, Ali Ürküt and Alp Aydınörs.
On 20 May 2016, the Turkish National Assembly abolished the legislative immunities of the HDP deputies. They were then arrested in a raid on their homes 4 November 2016.
The abolition of their immunity and the following arrests were similar to the People’s Labour Party (HEP) members’ 1993 expulsion from the National Assembly, who were the first representatives of Kurdish political movement in Turkey under the parliament.
Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office prepared a bill of indictment of 108 HDP members on 30 December 2020, citing the HDP’s posts on social media, which is claimed to have initiated the process leading to the Kobane events. The Ankara 22nd Heavy Penal Court accepted the indictment on 7 January 2021. On 26 April, the trial began against 108 HDP politicians, 20 of whom were imprisoned.
The Kobani case file consists of a bill of indictment of 3,530 pages. In the indictment, the prosecutor seeks aggravated life imprisonment 38 times for the defendants on 29 different charges, including “murder”, “looting”, “injuring a public official with a gun”, “flag burning”, and “disruption of the national unity and the integrity of the country”.