Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), spoke to Yeni Yaşam following Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s comments last week.
“How would they know what Mr. Öcalan, whom they have been keeping in isolation for years, would say?” Demirtaş asked in the interview published on Thursday.
Demirtaş’s comments follow Erdoğan alleging discord among prominent Kurdish political figures. On the 12th of January, addressing the parliamentary group of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), he said, “The one in Edirne will have to explain himself to the one in İmralı.”
The former HDP co-chair has been incarcerated in conditions of isolation in Turkey’s western-most Edirne province since November 2016 over terrorism charges, while Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), has been imprisoned in conditions of severe solitary confinement on the İmralı island prison complex since 1999.
Why do you think Erdoğan made this comment? What is he doing?
In all honesty, it is quite odd that a president would make such a statement. But when it comes to Erdoğan, I no longer expect common sense. I cannot know what his underlying purpose and intention was, but I can definitely say there is an ulterior motive. What he has done is an attempt to create a narrative. Considering the comments as part of Erdoğan’s attitude during the solution process and his praxis against us and regarding all other Kurdish dynamics, it can be seen that this statement has not been made in good faith.
Another purpose is to create confusion among Kurds, which is both wrong and does not pertain to anything. We have supported all efforts for peace and a solution to date, we worked so these efforts would succeed. We have no doubt on this matter. I am a politician who has taken on duties in the democratic political arena for a long time. I have no other role or mission. As such, this nonsensical discourse has no reflection in our political universe. Nobody should heed these words, or take them seriously.
The HDP administration and us, we have a will. I have been behind bars for more than five years because we did not allow this will to be trampled or ignored. I say once again: We will not allow the government’s attempt to break our will, to treat us like servants. We represent the will of the people. We respond to those who show disrespect for this will by standing tall and continuing our fight. I expect everybody to grasp this correctly and respect it. I cannot accept any other way.
If there are people who think about what has been done to our people, to our party, to us, and say, ‘It was a small unfortunate event, let’s forget it’, we will not take them seriously. The AKP’s alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party [MHP] has yet to take a step back from imposing their ugliest enemy protocols upon us. We do not shape our policies based on cheap talk, we do so looking at the practice.
What really should be asked about Erdoğan’s comments is this: You have kept Mr. Öcalan under absolute isolation for years. How do you know what he says? Lift the isolation, let Öcalan meet with his family and lawyers regularly, and together we will all find out what he has to say. It is not ethical to both implement the strictest of isolations and then speak as the president in the name of Öcalan.
Do you think Erdoğan’s comments were based on information or interpretation, considering the isolation? Could a new process or an initiative start in İmralı? What would your stance be in such a case? What would the HDP do?
Again, there is no concrete information on whether anybody actually spoke with Öcalan. The only thing we know for a fact is that the isolation has continued under the strictest terms for years. Will there be a visit, what would it be about? I cannot know these things. I myself have been held in a cell for five years and two months. I do not have any information.
On principle, we would support any and all initiatives for peace. Nobody could or should object to such an initiative. Who would not want an end to the clashes, to the deaths? We would be the most enthusiastic to stop the bloodshed. Are we not the ones who spent most of the effort to this end? Myself and my colleagues, we have paid the price for demanding peace with years spent in prison.
In my opinion, there should be talks in İmralı. Because there are issues that cannot be resolved unless Öcalan intervenes. With that in mind, I have said this before, as have HDP officials, under all circumstances the ultimate address for the solution is the parliament. HDP is the interlocutor at parliament. Öcalan has also stated this many times during the earlier process between 2013 and 2015.
Even if Erdoğan has an intention to hold talks in İmralı, building that on a cheap discourse of polarisation right off the bat is not right. It is dangerous. All could rightfully think that the intent here is not to stop the bloodshed but to pursue simple election calculations.
The HDP will determine what the HDP will do. It is not difficult to guess as there is a document stating the party’s approach to be referenced. HDP will definitely support peace, but it also has the experience and foresight to know that peace cannot come without democracy.
We will continue on our path, minding our own agenda without looking at what the government is saying, as we have done before.