As left-wing and progressive forces in Turkey celebrate Peace Day, Kurds and their allies have come together in rallies throughout the country to voice a demand for peace.
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MPs and members of political parties, trade unions, and civil society organisations spoke at a rally in capital Ankara, calling for justice and peace.
Participants carried banners that read, “No war among peoples – no peace among classes”, “War makes loss, peace makes gains”, “Stop the war, build the free life”, “Justice for women defending the co-chair system”, other banners calling for freedom for political prisoners and photos of Deniz Poyraz, a HDP member who was killed last year in Izmir.
Slogans chanted among the crowd included, “No to war – peace right now”, “Long live fraternity of peoples”, and, “Budgets for workers not wars”.
The Human Rights Association (İHD), simultaneously with the rally they also attended, held a press conference under a banner that read, “We defend the right to peace”.
According to an İHD report covering 2015 to 2021, at least 6,164 people lost their lives in relation to the conflict between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Ninety two civilians were killed in clashes, while another 1,071 died in what the İHD called extrajudicial executions.
“The figures announced by the Defence Ministry show how severe the situation is. These are numbers from a mid-size war,” Nilay Nayman from the İHD said, reading the advocacy group’s statement.
İHD called for a lasting no-clash period, the release of sick prisoners, and freedom for political prisoners including elected mayors and MPs.
HDP Co-Chair Pervin Buldan spoke at the rally in the eastern Van province, calling for a “lasting and dignified peace”.
“Nobody has the power to stifle the voice for peace on these lands,” Buldan said. “As long as HDP exists, it will continue to fight for justice and peace in this country. Because we know that society’s wounds can only heal by true justice, and a lasting, dignified peace.”
Peoples in Turkey do not choose war, Buldan continued. “Their preference is for a dignified peace, justice, democracy and human rights.”
“We know peace means prosperity. We know peace means a secure future. We know peace would let this country and the world win big,” Buldan added. “We will win big with peace, and meet this country’s yearning for peace without ever straying from the HDP line.”
Buldan called for an end to the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan for the jailed founder and leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to be able to play a role in building the peace.
Several people were detained after the rally ended, as young participants continued to chant slogans in favour of Abdullah Öcalan. Riot police used tear gas on the young group, while also targeting journalists in the area.
Buldan’s co-chair Mithat Sancar attended the rally in Şırnak’s (Şirnêx) Silopi district on the border with Syria and Iraq, and called for cooperation against wars.
“This government tries to survive using policies of war. So we say, all peoples in Turkey, all those who want democracy and justice must speak up against the war. We must create the greatest anti-war alliance,” Sancar said.
“We know that, in these lands that live through all kinds of tyranny and destruction of war, the roots of peace are strong. Peace will truly spring from these lands,” the co-chair added.
HDP issued another statement calling for peace in the eastern Ağrı (Agirî) province, while the İHD held a peace vigil in the southern Hatay.
Women for Equality Platform (EŞİK) issued a written statement to mark the occasion, saying women “do not give up the right to a life without war or violence”.
Rosa Women’s Association in Diyarbakır (Amed) said in a written statement that peace is possible “through ending the most widespread and oldest discrimination, sexism, and the patriarchal system that engendered it”.
In the southeastern Siirt (Sêrt) province, HDP and mainstream opposition parties Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) held a joint statement, together with civil society organisations. “If political parties and opposition groups focus on peace in Turkey, we believe a path will be cleared for a new peace process,” İHD Chairman Cihan Toprak said.
Women and left-wing parties in the southeastern Batman province called for peace, promising to “create the opportunities and conditions to make the struggle for peace concrete”.
“HDP is the guarantee for peace in Turkey. War means isolation, peace is freedom. HDP leads this struggle for peace. Kurds and everybody else should defend peace,” HDP Batman MP Necdet İpekyüz said.
The Labour and Democracy Platform in the southeastern Şanlıurfa (Riha) province focused the day’s events on Ali Rıza Aslan, a Kurdish father who received the remains of his son in a white sack, seven years after he was killed in clashes. The crowd gathered for the peace day rally carried an empty box to symbolise Hakan Aslan’s body.
The rally continued after minor altercations with the police.