Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has called for politicians to be held accountable, criticising their decision-making process and stressing the responsibility they bear for sending young soldiers into conflict zones.
Demirtaş’s remarks were part of his powerful and wide-ranging defence in the ongoing Kobani trial, in which 108 Kurdish politicians are on trial.
The imprisoned politician stressed the need for dialogue and negotiation to end the ongoing Kurdish conflict in the country. He condemned the labelling of peace advocates as terrorists and highlighted what he defined as the hypocrisy of politicians who make decisions from the comfort of their plush offices, ultimately leading to the sacrifice of young lives.
Expressing deep sorrow over the recent loss of 12 Turkish soldiers in Turkey’s cross-border military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Demirtaş described them as “like brothers” and lamented the “unfortunate price paid by the country’s youth as a result of political decisions”.
Demirtaş criticised the government’s approach to dealing with conflicts, saying that while the nation mourns the lives lost, the government imprisons those who advocate peace and resorts to war policies for political gain.
Stressing the importance of dialogue and negotiation, Demirtaş accused those who avoid peaceful solutions of being responsible for the continuing deaths. He called for an end to the isolation of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and a return to dialogue methods, saying:
“Öcalan is an opportunity for both Kurds and Turks. This opportunity should be seized. Send a delegation to İmralı instead of sending Turkish youth to war at -20 degrees. Is the sky going to fall in if you do that? Let the children live. We are fighting for this, this is what we want”.
Describing the Kobani trial as a political vendetta, Demirtaş also argued that he and others were political hostages because of their advocacy for peace. He alleged that the aim of the trial was to stifle political opposition rather than to seek justice.