Eylül Deniz Yaşar – Diyarbakır
Evaluating the significance of the peace politics that the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) advocates in Turkey, the HDP’s Diyarbakir MP Hişyar Özsoy explains: “To overcome this fascist government would end the hostage politics that is taking place with Europe, which is based on blackmail and threats. The HDP’s meaning and struggle is directly linked to the solution of the many challenges that Europe currently faces”.
Hişyar Özsoy, who is also the HDP’s Vice co-Chair of Foreign Affairs, spoke to MedyaNews in a wide-ranging interview about the significance of the HDP’s struggle in the national and international political arena, the utilisation of the discourse of terrorism in Turkey, the imprisoned politicians and the prison isolation conditions of Abdullah Öcalan. Commenting on the attitude of Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in a tense meeting with his Swedish counterpart Ann Linde, Özsoy shared his impressions on Europe’s approach towards Turkey’s regional aggression.
The HDP has just celebrated its eighth anniversary since its foundation. What is its contribution nationally and globally?
We are excited to welcome the eighth year since its foundation. However, the HDP is not really just eight years old. The HDP represents various traditions in Turkey that have struggled greatly in Turkey for nearly one hundred years. Our instincts for survival and practice of resistance under any circumstances are inherited from these century-long struggles. The eight years of the HDP’s formal existence can only be understood within this wider context and memory of struggle in its historical-sociological perspectives. There are multiple identities of and within the HDP, ranging from democrats and religionists to communists and anarchists, because the HDP adopts pluralist politics and a pluralist platform. Such a pluralistic struggle is a first in the political history of Turkey.
I assure all your readers, especially the audience in Europe, that figures like Erdoğan and Bahçeli (the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, the MHP) will not have equivalents in Turkey’s future. Even though they attempt to close our party, the HDP will always remain as an experience of struggle and will play an important role in the politics of the Middle East.
Erdoğan uses the geopolitical advantage of Turkey against Europe and it is true that Turkey stands in a significant position regionally. Therefore, our struggle as the HDP in such a critically significant position is crucial, because overcoming the alliance of Erdogan and Bahceli and creating a ground for a democratic Turkey will give birth to important results both for the Middle East and Europe. In a meeting with Angela Merkel, we expressed this explicitly. By overcoming this fascist government, we would end the hostage politics that takes place with Europe, which is based on blackmail and threats. The HDP’s meaning and struggle, therefore, does not only concern Kurds or other people in Turkey, but it is directly linked to the solution of many challenges that the Europe faces.
As the HDP’s Vice co-Chair for Foreign Affairs, what is the nature of the party’s relations with political agents cross-border and especially with Europe?
The HDP has an extensive foreign affairs network. We are in direct dialogue at the highest level with more than one hundred political parties globally, including the parties which are members of the Party of European Socialists and of the Party of the European Left, the Greens, and many groups who have representation in the European Parliament. We have been trying to act using a broad international perspective with the diplomatic relationships we have built with ambassadors, non-governmental organisations and media outlets abroad.
Especially in Europe, now the abbreviation ‘HDP’ is known and its historical-political role in Turkey is recognised by everyone. I would like to recall the message that the Party of European Socialists sent to our eighth anniversary celebrations in Istanbul: “We gain hope and inspiration by the resistance of HDP against such oppression”. I can say that our colleagues, who take part in the political arena in Europe, show their admiration and respect for our ability to stand strong against all these attacks targeting the HDP, and for our ability to be able to diffuse the centre’s actions.
How do you evaluate the tense meeting of Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Ann Linde? To what extent can the criticism raised by Sweden’s Foreign Minister be taken as a reflection of Europe’s attitude to the government of Turkey?
We have had previous communications with Ann Linde. She has been to Turkey many times and has shown her interest in Rojava and Southern Kurdistan. She has visited Diyarbakır and met with Selahattin Demirtaş as well. Therefore, she is quite familiar with the issues of democracy and the Kurdish question in Turkey.
In the press conference, Çavuşoğlu presented an attitude that is diplomatically rude, far from kind and indecorous for a minister since he takes it for granted that he has the right to yell and reprimand everybody. I think he takes Erdoğan as his example. This mentality is macho, male and ‘Turk’ in a sense – I don’t use the term ‘Turk’ as an ethnic concept, but as a habitus. Ann Linde came together with our Co-Chairs after her meeting with Çavuşoğlu and in this meeting, I had the impression that she did not take that rudeness so seriously. In order to respect the confidentiality of our meeting, I cannot reveal further details, but I can say that she did not take it so seriously and she just smiled when the topic was being discussed, because she deals with more important issues.
Ann Linde represents the dominant feeling of public opinion. I can say this, at least for the Social Democrats, Liberals or Left parties in Europe that we regularly keep in contact with. However, some old hands in European politics prefer not to do so explicitly for their own self-interest. The European Union, mostly dominated by Germany’s attitude, has not been so willing to come across President Erdoğan regarding the Kurdish question and Rojava, due to the concerns of realpolitik and because they cooperate with Turkey over security, migration and in refugee issues.
Turkey controls the route of the migration geopolitically and tries to maintain its relations with Europe through ‘hostage diplomacy’. European public opinion, even the ones who normally defend Turkey, such as British Conservatives, do not defend Turkey anymore. Critical voices in Europe have begun to be raised more significantly, because the foreign policy of Turkey in a regional sense – ranging from Syria, Libya, Eastern-Mediterranean, Greece to the recent Azerbaijiani-Armenian conflict – has been so militarised and aggressive, especially over the last year. This increasingly isolates Erdoğan. Therefore, the pressure of Europe upon Turkey will potentially increase in the upcoming period.
What about Europe’s approach towards the utilisation of the discourse of terrorism?
Even a significant number of conservatives in Europe see that Turkey’s attitude towards the Kurdish question is not sustainable. It is not hard to see that you cannot handle such an historical issue with the classic discourse of terror. The Republic of Turkey is a member of NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) and represents a huge consumer market of 80 million people. Therefore, many European countries do serious business with Turkey. However, Turkey could not terrorise Rojava despite using all its diplomatic and financial power and its lobbies and could not add the Democratic Union Party (PYD) or the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to the terrorism list. That means that the argument of the Turkish state regarding both north Kurdistan and Rojava – that it is engaged in a ‘struggle against terrorism’ – has no buyers.
Together with these broad international topics, your party has had to deal with many attacks at the national level, primarily the detention policies of the state. What are your views regarding the imprisoned politicians of the HDP? What are the stances of Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ considering their political targeting?
Both our ex-co-Chairs, Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ, are regularly in contact with our party. Their opinions are critically sought during lawyer’s visits. Our current co-Chairs also visit them regularly. There have been many mainstream reports targeting the HDP’s internal affairs, including ones that have claimed that Demirtaş will establish a new party. However, Demirtaş has just shared his comments on how valuable he sees the HDP in his official Twitter account via his lawyers to celebrate our eighth year. These polemics that are being played out in the mainstream media are not to be taken seriously.
Erdoğan and Bahçeli are aware of the fact that they will not be voted into power in the next election and they are trying to figure out how to win at the next elections amidst an economic crisis in the country, the pandemic and the regional instability. Since they have nothing but oppression, violence, terrorisation and criminalisation of society to offer, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) alliance has made a strategical change in its politics, namely targeting the internal affairs of opposition parties. There is also a ghost hand within both the İyi Party and in the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and this hand tries to unsettle both parties. The polemics targeting the HDP forms part of this same strategy: since they cannot find points of confusion within the HDP, they are trying to enflame discussions using Demirtaş. The HDP is aware of and strong enough to overcome these conspiracies. Both Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ’s stance in prison has been a very vital part of the whole story of the HDP They are imprisoned together with all our other imprisoned politicians.
How are Abdullah Öcalan’s prison isolation conditions being evaluated and at what level of priority does his situation stand on the agenda of the HDP in order to achieve its peace politics?
There is general consent in Europe regarding the legal dimensions of the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, which we evaluate positively. Especially the reports of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) reflect this. The draft resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) that will take place on 23 October includes a specific reference to Mr. Öcalan’s situation. This draft resolution includes a statement which demands that all CPT decisions have to be applied.
Isolation should not be taken on a personal level or as a simple legal issue. Isolation means militarism regarding the Kurdish question. Isolation means nationalism and populism regarding the Kurdish question. Isolation means the termination of the solution of the Kurdish question through dialogue. Hence, isolation harms democratic institutions and the perception of justice in Turkey. Whenever the doors of isolation opened slightly, Mr. Öcalan took risks and attempted to solve the Kurdish question through dialogue. Imrali is like the Guantanamo of Turkey, almost a black hole, where the law does not apply. The laws of Turkey or the laws of the European Council do not apply here. This is reflective of the systematic expression of the denialism and militarism of the Kurdish question.
The HDP has always tried to keep this issue on the agenda on both the national and international levels, but breaking the isolation of Mr. Öcalan is our top-priority especially in the coming period, because the lifting of his isolation may pave the way for positive processes in Turkey, in various parts of Kurdistan, especially in Rojava and in the Middle Eastern region in general. With this analysis, the HDP will continue and speed up its campaigning for the lifting of his isolation in the upcoming period.