Today is the 5th Congress of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) – also possibly the last congress if the closure case currently going through the Turkish courts goes against the party. A visibly tired Hişyar Özsoy, the party’s Foreign Affairs co-spokesperson, took some time off late yesterday evening, after a busy day of preparations, to talk to Medya News.
Özsoy explained that the HDP, established in 2012, is a major player in Turkish politics, and is more than just a Kurdish party. It is supported by most Kurds, but also provides representation for leftists and progressives, and for other ethnic minorities who have historically been marginalised. It is the “antidote of monolithic Turkish nationalism”.
Being the opposite of all that the Turkish government stands for, they have come under huge pressure, especially since June 2015, when they prevented Erdoğan from being able to form a majority government.
The HDP plays a king-maker role in Turkish politics, as exemplified in the local elections of 2019, where, in key metropolitan areas, the HDP gave vital support to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Özsoy calls on everyone who cares about the democratic future of Turkey and about a peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict to show solidarity with the HDP – even if they don’t share the HDP’s political values. But he is under no illusions when it comes to the CHP and their allies. He explains how this opposition alliance distances itself from the HDP, fearful of also being branded by the government as terrorists. Özsoy describes this as the opposition operating within the government’s limits, but he also notes that, despite some more sympathetic voices, the CHP’s opposition alliance is nationalist and anti-Kurdish in their own right.
Özsoy calls on this opposition alliance to show support for the HDP, despite their different political outlooks, and to make a political programme for democracy and for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue. He points out that resisting the persecution of the HDP makes it harder for Erdoğan to stay in power, and he calls on the opposition alliance to show courage and political will at a critical time in Turkish politics. If Erdoğan is able to remain in power for another five years, Özsoy fears that the country could undergo irreparable damage.
HDP members are under huge pressure and take huge risks. Over 15,000 have been detained and around 5,000 are still in prison. A similar number have sought asylum outside Turkey. Özsoy observes that it is difficult losing people with experience, but that there are hundreds of thousands of people committed to their cause, and when people are sent to prison there are others to take their place – even though they know the risks involved. He explains this political engagement as a strategy for survival, because it is understood that without democracy and a solution to the Kurdish question the situation will only get worse.
People have faith in the HDP and invest emotionally in the party, but, even if the HDP is closed down, this powerful community and spirit of resistance would continue.
When we spoke, Özsoy was looking forward to a historic congress that would show peoples motivation for social and political change, and he stated that, despite the darkness ruling the country, so long as people are willing to struggle, there will never be a complete hegemony of those who are in power.