Eylül Deniz Yaşar – Istanbul
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar spoke to the international media at a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey.
The HDP Co-Chairs issued a statement at an event which started at 09:00 CET in a prestigious Istanbul hotel. Saruhan Oluç, HDP’s MP for Istanbul, opened the meeting whilst Tayyip Temel, HDP’s MP for Van (Wan), also attended the meeting.
Buldan: Turkey faces serious economic, political and social crises
Pervin Buldan noted the following in her presentation: “We are honoured to meet with representatives of the international media. We will discuss the most important issues of Turkey and fundamental topics all together and we will try to understand each other and analyze the topics in a deeper sense in the QA part in the end.
“I believe that Turkey faces serious economic, political and social crises. The society suffers from financial distress. We know that the resources wasted in war can more effectively be used for the benefit of society. The resources of the country have also been spent to cover the expenses of the palace of the president and pro-government groups.
“The conditions of the pandemic have added to all these problems: the business owners in Turkey and the small business owners have been facing serious distress. This portrait of the country shows that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) alliance government is unable to govern the country”.
Buldan: ‘Showing the sword of Damocles to the HDP will bring no benefits for this country’
Buldan further stated: “In addition to this financial crisis, Turkey is in a political crisis. We have been facing – as the HDP – all kinds of political pressures against us. Now our MP’s face the risk of losing their immunities in parliament. The HDP is the third largest opposition party in Turkey. Threatening or showing the ‘sword of Damocles’ to the HDP will bring no benefits for this country.
“Besides the political and economic crisis, there is the ‘Kurdish question’ in Turkey. As the HDP, we believe that the ‘Kurdish question’ can only be solved through negotiation and dialogue. We have been active in the ‘solution process’ between 2011 and 2015. Mr. Öcalan (a reference to Abdullah Öcalan) has also stated his proposal to solve the ‘Kurdish question’ through dialogue, but the government has rejected those ideas and has been trying the former methods of oppression”.
Buldan stated that “closing down the political parties and the lifting of the immunities of the lawmakers are not beneficial for any political environment. Selahattin Demirtaş, Figen Yüksekdağ, HDP MP’s and many HDP mayors have been jailed over the years”.
Buldan: ‘We are trying to bring the hunger strikes to the top of the agenda’
Buldan continued: “The decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding the immediate release of Selahattin Demirtaş has not been applied by Turkey. This is a fundamental issue regarding the democratization of Turkey and the solution of the crises. I would like to shed light on the violations of human rights in Turkey’s prisons. Now, they have applied a new method of ‘house arrest’ as the prisons are over-crowded.
“Starting with the practice of strip-searches as the most serious violation of human rights, prisoners in Turkey have been facing grim violations of their rights”.
At the end of her presentation, Buldan emphasized the significance of the ongoing hunger strikes in Turkey’s prisons which have reached their 99th day: “A hunger strike has been going on in Turkey. We are trying to bring the hunger strikes to the top of the agenda, but the Turkish authorities and the Ministry of Justice remain silent regarding the issue. We believe that the steps to be taken to end the hunger strikes are of vital importance. People who sacrifice their bodies to engage in hunger strikes do deserve steps to be taken by the government”, she said at the end of her presentation.
Sancar: ‘The rule of law has been put aside in Turkey for many years’
Speaking after Buldan, Mithat Sancar stated: “There are multiple crises in Turkey. Two main dimensions of the political crisis is the crisis of law and democracy. The most significant root of the political crisis relates to the issue of democracy and law. Turkey has been governed by a regime which has been getting more authoritarian over the years. This year is very significant for us to see whether this authoritarianism will continue to be developed in a continuous trend or not.
“The rule of law has been put aside in Turkey for many years whilst the arbitrariness has been more decisive. The judiciary is not independent and the division of power has been eliminated. In countries where democracy and law does not function well, economic crisis emerges. The most visible facet of this ‘democracy and law crisis’ is seen on the pressure on our party. This political power chooses to oppress the opposition in order to maintain its own existence”.
Sancar added: “The threats of closing the HDP and the indictments are related to this. On one hand, they imply that a case can be opened against the HDP to close down the party: on the other hand, they try to create an atmosphere of fear by threatening our party with the indictments. Especially regarding the indictments, I would like to underline that the allegations and so-called ‘evidence’ put forward against our party is tragi-comic and is far away from being real. The decision of the ECHR regarding Demirtaş shows these inaccuracies.
“ECHR has judged that the operations against our party lies on political grounds, but not on legal grounds. Article 18 of the Human Rights Convention is very significant because this article has been taken into account for the Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtaş cases. The Turkish government has said that this decision is not binding for it. However, this decision is, indeed, binding for Turkey”.
Sancar: We call on the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to act
Sancar further stated: “The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will meet on 9-11 March in Strasbourg for the 1898th Human Rights sitting. We would like to call on the delegates of the Council of Europe: ‘If they want to maintain the laws and rules of the conventions, they should act and give decision accordingly’. The attitude of Turkey towards the ECHR is not only a threat to democracy and human rights in Turkey, but also a threat to the system of Europe in terms of human rights.
“Of course, we are not only depending on various institutions regarding the democratization of Turkey. We are continuing our struggle for democratization in Turkey against authoritarianism by uniting our struggle with the other democratic allies in the country. The HDP believes that the ‘Kurdish question’ and all social problems can be solved through democracy and law. Therefore, we are insistent on maintaining our democratic politics.
“This government uses oppression, polarization and increasing tensions rather than politics or law”. Sancar concluded: “We believe that such an understanding may deepen the crises in Turkey. Therefore, we see the solution in the most expansive democratic alliance”.
‘International democracy forces are biased towards Turkey’
After their presentations, the HDP Co-Chairs shared their evaluations regarding various issues raised by the questions of the international journalists participating at the conference.
In reply to Medya News’ question, HDP Co-Chairs Buldan and Sancar shared their views on the silence of international democratic forces regarding Turkey’s insistence on not applying the decision of the ECHR to immediately release the former HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş and a prominent philanthropist, Osman Kavala. This seems contradictory, they noted, considering the issue of sanctions being placed on Russia in the Navalny Case. Buldan and Sancar also shared their comments on how they viewed the attitude of the United Nations and the CPT (the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment) towards the ongoing hunger strikes and the prison isolation conditions of Abdullah Öcalan.
“The decision of the ECHR regarding the immediate release of the former Co-Chair of the party Selahattin Demirtaş was not applied by Turkey, but the US and the EU has never taken any decision regarding sanctions despite Turkey’s lack of applying the binding decisions of the ECHR. There is a silence in the international arena regarding the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan and the hunger strikes. International democratic powers also remain silent against the oppression against the HDP”, Buldan said.
Buldan emphasized that the HDP would be in favour of sanctions against Turkey only if the targeted sanctions were taken against the AKP authorities: “I would like to emphasize that we are in favour of sanctions being applied to Turkey. But we don’t want the people of Turkey to suffer from these sanctions: the AKP should be paying the bill of the sanctions, not society.
“We would also like to appeal to the international community – not only the EU countries but also the UN and the CPT: Please do not remain silent regarding the isolation. The isolation of Mr. Öcalan is a humanitarian crisis and concern. Our request regarding the isolation of Mr. Öcalan is that he should be able to use his natural rights, just like the rest of the prisoners who are able to be visited by their families and lawyers. Isolation is a humanitarian crime; isolation is a practice that is regularly being applied with ever more intensity throughout the country. The UN and the CPT should make calls to Turkey to take steps regarding the lifting of these isolation conditions. We are not demanding widespread sanctions and as the HDP, we do not support (wider)sanctions, but we believe that the solution is not through sanctions but to make Turkey take the necessary steps for democratization. We believe the democratization of Turkey is the only solution”, she noted.
‘There are hundreds of examples of Navalny in Turkey’
Later on, expressing his views on the issue, Sancar shared with Medya News that the international powers’ and the EU’s approach towards Turkey is blatantly biased. “We evaluate the approach towards Turkey as biased. Regarding the recent developments in Russia and the consequent arrest of Navalny, the EU has shown a clear attitude towards Russia. The attitude they have shown is the correct attitude and the correct stance.
However, in Turkey there are hundreds of examples of Navalny; Demirtaş and Kavala as the most visible symbols, but in addition to them, we have many jailed friends from our party, as well as intellectuals, authors, journalists within the walls of prisons in Turkey, who face the same injustice as Navalny. However, the EU gives the security and economy as it’s priority on building its relations with Turkey and does not base its relations with Turkey to the principles of the rule of law and democracy nor international criteria and conventions of human rights.”
Emphasising that the HDP only asks the EU to act based on its own principles Sancar told Medya News, “We are not asking the EU to ‘help’ us or to take unnecessary sanctions or pressures on Turkey. We just invite the EU to act on their own principles. If the EU conducts its relations based on the Copenhagen criteria, the EU can contribute to the development of the rule of law and democracy in Turkey; if not, the EU only encourages the authoritarianism and arbitrariness in Turkey.”
Buldan: Turkish government has never been sincere on reform calls
Speaking on the Human Rights Action Plan announced by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Buldan shared her view that, “Whenever a reform has been announced, no real action has been taken regarding the development of the judiciary over the course of the last 19 years of AKP rule.”
Buldan also stated that just by looking at the aftermath of the various previous ‘reform announcements’ of the Turkish governments, one can tell that the Turkish government “has never been sincere on their reform calls.”
“They have always been announcing new reform packages, but in the aftermath of all of those announcements, they have mobilised new attacks against the HDP. The judicial courts chief prosecutor issued an investigation against our party. The ‘trustees’ have been appointed to the HDP elected mayors’ places after they have announced a reform package in the previous years. When they have applied the new justice package, they have applied these only for the prisoners jailed for ‘petty’ crimes, but not to the political prisoners. So their ‘reform packages’ or ‘judicial reforms’ have never worked for the benefit of democratic forces of this country.” she said.
Sancar: The plan is a confession of the lack of human rights in Turkey
Making further comments on the Human Rights Action Plan, Sancar said that the human rights action plan is a “confession” of the “lack of human rights” in Turkey that shed light on the devastating conditions of the human rights in the country.
“The government has announced The Human Rights Action Plan pertaining to 9 headlines and 393 subtitles, which is clearly a confession that in 9 headlines and 393 subtitles there are human rights issues in our country. If the government want to be sincere and credible for the society regarding this plan, they should first confess and apologise to our society for their practices of destroying and harming those human rights,” he said.
“However, the government has shown the very intention of their actions after the announcement of this plan. Another fact is that, the “one-man” regime in the country lacks the necessary mechanism to pave the way for the proper implementation of human rights and to preserve these rights. In this current form and the mentality of the Turkish government, it is impossible to implement a human rights reform. A real human rights reform can be only be achieved by the democratic forces uniting and increasing their solidarity and struggle for human rights. The Turkish government tries to look ‘cute’ and send a message to the new US administration and the EU with this Human Rights Action Plan,” said Sancar.
Sancar finally took attention to the “timing” of Erdoğan. “You see, on 9-11 March there will be a meeting of the European Council and at the end of the March a summit of the EU will be organised. Considering the timing, This Human Rights Action Plan is not a good will, but it is for showing off,” he said.
HDP’s insistence on democratic politics in the light of the discussions about closing down their party
Regarding the debates on the closing down of the HDP, Buldan said, “We are always ready for such attacks, even for the closure of our party. We come from a tradition that even though our political parties have been closed many times over the years, we have always continued to make politics by establishing new parties. Of course, we have a plan B in case the Turkish government takes a step to close our party, but I will not announce this plan here now.”
Speaking on the same issue, Sancar underlined that there is no legal grounds to close down the HDP. “DTP (Democratic Society Party) decision adopted by the ECTHR in 2016, based on judgment no such decision of closure against the HDP can be given. Politically and legally, there is no legitimate grounds to close down our party. If the Constitutional Court of Turkey takes into account this decision and takes it as a preceding judgement, no judgement of closure can be given against the HDP by any judiciary. However, if any action is taken to close the HDP, we have not only A or B plans, we have D plan and so on and so forth. We are insistent on democratic politics. HDP will continue its march under any circumstances,” he said.
Buldan on being a ‘Kurdish woman politician’ in Turkey
Referring to another question regarding the indictments on the HDP’s woman lawmakers, Buldan underlined that it’s part of the attacks against women, but the indictments against the HDP’s woman lawmakers cannot be “oversimplified” only within this radar. “The attacks on our party can not be evaluated independently of the attacks on women, because the HDP is a women’s party. The fact that the indictment opened against the woman MPs of the HDP is a reflection of the attacks against women in politics, but this is not the only example. Many local woman politicians of the HDP, local female co-chairs and female co-mayors,” she said and added, “If you are a woman, it is hard to make politics in Turkey, but if you are a Kurd and if you are a HDP member, your job is even harder . There are many woman MPs in other parties, even though their numbers are not too high, there are still many woman politicians in the political arena of the country. So, I believe the attacks on the women politicians of the HDP are a part of their systematics attacks on the HDP and on the Kurdish people.”
Are there talks with Abdullah Öcalan?
Regarding to another question of whether the Turkish state conducts any ongoing meetings with Abdullah Öcalan, Buldan said, “We have no information regarding this matter, because we have no contact with Mr. Öcalan as he is under heavy isolation. To learn that, the isolation should be lifted, and the meetings of Mr. Öcalan with his lawyers and his family should be ensured. So that we can learn whether there are any meetings taking place on Imralı regarding any negotiations with him.“