The parliamentary co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) urged the Russian and Ukrainian administrations to fulfil their responsibilities for providing humanitarian assistance and relief to civilians as clashes moved into cities in Ukraine and the humanitarian crisis deepened.
Speaking at a press conference in the Turkish parliament on Monday, Meral Danış Beştaş also voiced criticism at the Turkish administration for its reluctant stance in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Underlining that it took four days for Ankara to recognise the situation in Ukraine as ‘warfare’, Beştaş drew attention to Turkey’s abstention in the vote at the Council of Europe concerning suspension of Russia’s membership.
“Erdoğan is criticising NATO for its attitude regarding the situation in Ukraine, but he has abstained, in a strange way, from the voting on Russia’s suspension from the Council of Europe. I don’t know how they’ll explain this?” she said.
Beştaş also criticised the double standards in the political administration, the mainstream media and parts of the public regarding the stance against war.
“Many people have recently demonstrated against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Turkey,” she said. “But I want to draw everyone’s attention here to the fact that the anti-war stance is actually changeable depending on the geography and social identity. What happened earlier when Turkey invaded Afrin [North Syria]? Those who praised militarism and war in that situation are now wandering around protesting against war.”
“Leyla Güven, the co-chair of the Democratic Society Congress, was stripped of her parliamentary seat because she opposed the invasion of Afrin, and she is still incarcerated in Elazığ. While Turkey praises the protestors in Moscow who oppose the invasion of Ukraine, it declares anti-war activists in Turkey traitors and terrorists (…) It is of crucial importance that people are able to oppose the war policies of their own governments (…) I want to express once again our support for the peace academics, the elected officials, journalists and all NGOs who have had to pay a high price because of their opposition. And I’m asking a question, like so many other people: As anti-war activists are now so highly praised in the media, why were the peace academics treated so differently in the past? Aren’t these the same newspapers that had labeled them terrorists and traitors back then?”
Over 1100 academy members from 89 Turkish universities had signed a ‘Peace Petition‘ in January 2016, calling for an end to clashes between state forces and fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), accusing the government of ‘deliberate massacre and deportation’ of civilians, and urging the government to allow independent observers into the region, end curfews, and renew peace efforts.
As the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan immediately accused the petitioners as ‘terrorists’, over 600 signatories were charged and hundreds were dismissed from the academy.
Turkish invasion in north Syria
Turkey has invaded parts of north Syria in different military operations since 2016, with no reaction from neither its political parties except for the HDP, nor from the mainstream media and the public itself except for the Kurds and some groups of peace activists.
As no foreign state or international organisation has ever taken any action against the Turkish invasion, an operation ironically dubbed ‘olive branch’ in the first three months of 2018 ended up with the invasion of the city of Afrin and resulted in deaths of hundreds of civilians and displacement of nearly 300,000, almost the entire Kurdish population of Afrin.
The city remains under Turkish occupation, and Turkey is totally exempt from any accountability in its constant airstrikes targeting the unoccupied territories in the region.