The Presidential and Parliamentary elections on 14 May represent the biggest chance for political change Turkey has seen for a generation. The past two decades have seen Turkish President Erdogan rule with an increasingly authoritarian hand. Nowhere has this been more obvious than in his repeated attacks on the Kurdish people and their movement for democracy and fundamental rights, both at home and abroad.
But the pro-Kurdish, progressive opposition also stands to play a kingmaker role in the elections, as well as in creating a new political settlement in Turkey. Medya News is bringing together a panel of leading Kurdish politicians, European politicians and activists currently on the ground in Turkey and Turkish Kurdistan (Bakur).
Join us via our Twitter page for our Twitter Spaces discussion at 7PM CET on Wednesday 14 May. We will look at what change may come from the elections, the severe repression currently being faced by the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and associated parties, and the steps European Parliaments, legal bodies and progressive parties should be taking to ensure the democratic process and rule of law is respected.
We’ll hear from: Osman Baydemir, the former HDP mayor of Diyarbakir (Amed); Bedia Özgökçe, former HDP mayor of Van (Wan); Nikolaj Villumsen, of the Left Group in the European Parliament; Nazan Üstündağ, sociologist, of the Gerda Henkel Stiftung Patrimonies Program; and Emma Müller,a UK electoral observer in Turkey. Our panelists will discuss ‘Turkey’s elections: democracy in crisis and the Kurds as kingmakers’, sharing their expert insight and knowledge, while there will also be the opportunity for audience members to put questions to the panel.
The upcoming elections are of particular significance. Domestically, Erdogan has launched sustained attacks on the progressive, Kurdish-led opposition, and particularly my own People’s Democratic Party, or HDP. 11 HDP MPs have been jailed, while 61 of 65 democratically-elected HDP mayors have been removed from office and replaced by state-appointed trustees, while as many as 40% of regular party members have faced criminal charges. Erdogan is now moving to ban the HDP outright, which will be the ninth time in succession a pro-Kurdish party has been banned.
These attacks are not limited to the HDP, or the Kurdish people. Turkey is among the world’s worst jailers of journalists, targeting and jailing dozens of Kurdish media workers in the last year alone. Kurdish lawyers, civil society activists and even artists, musicians and actors are all jailed for exercising their basic rights to freedom of expression. Other leading civil-society figures, journalists and lawyers have all also been jailed or exiled in their thousands. Meanwhile, Erdogan’s Turkey continues to conduct deadly attacks against Kurdish civilians, politicians and military figures who work with the USA in the fight against ISIS, launching deadly drone attacks and cross-border operations against both northern Syria and northern Iraq.
Women and other at-risk, minority groups have suffered greatly under Erdogan, as with the country’s recent decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention intended to protect women from violence.
The economy is in ruins, thanks to Erdogan’s economic mismanagement and massive privatisation of public services. Many ordinary people can scarcely afford to eat or heat their homes. The recent, deadly earthquake which killed 50,000 Turkish citizens has brought about a national reckoning and shift in the polls which has left many observers expecting a close-to-the wire race between Erdogan and his principal challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu. The Kurdish-led progressive opposition bloc is not fielding its own Presidential candidate, leaving the door open for Kilicdaroglu to mount a serious challenge to the incumbent President.
Join us via your Twitter account here to hear expert opinions on this epochal moment in Turkish political history, as we examine the possibility for political and social change in a country which now stands at a crossroads.
Panel host Matt Broomfield