Turkey is prosecuting resistance against ISIS, resistance applauded by the rest of the world, said the co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP), Tülay Hatimoğulları and Tuncer Bakırhan, who condemned the ongoing Kobani (Kobanê) trial in Ankara on Monday.
Speaking from outside the courtroom in Sincan Prison complex, where 108 politicians are on trial, 18 of whom are remanded in custody, Bakırhan highlighted the paradox, asserting that “While the entire globe celebrates Kobani’s valour, Turkey stands alone in this prosecution.”
“From the witnesses to the record-keeping, the whole trial we are faced with is a set-up. It is democratic politics that are on trial,” Bakırhan added, further questioning the integrity of the trial.
Bakırhan also emphasised the Turkish government’s insincere approach to the Kurdish issue. He noted past instances where it had collaborated with Kurdish political leaders in seeking a political resolution. However, prominent figures like the former co-chairs of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, are now being prosecuted in the Kobani trial for their endeavours during those self-same peace processes.
Hatimoğulları asserted that the nature of the trial was an extended civil coup orchestrated by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its partners. “We have frequently witnessed military coups in the history of Turkey. […] We’re now experiencing an extended civil coup,” she explained. She too referred to the dubious nature of the trial, adding, “It was in Kobani’s resistance that the entire world saw ISIS could be defeated.”
Tensions rose in the courtroom during the hearing when the microphones of the defence lawyers were muted.
As the session progressed, the court refused to entertain defence pleas. Sevda Çelik Özbingöl and Mehdi Zana Akkaya, who were among the lawyers representing Sebahat Tuncel and Figen Yüksekdağ, urgently requested bail for their clients who, despite having spent longer in pre-trial detention than the seven years the law allows, remain detained. The presiding judge declined to hear their pleas, leading to the muting of their microphones.
This prompted defendant Dilek Yağlı to express concerns over the court’s attitude, suggesting that the environment wasn’t conducive to a fair defence. “The allegations against me are so disconnected that I don’t even know how to defend myself,” Yağlı said. She drew parallels between the people’s calls in support for Kobani against ISIS then, and calls in support of Palestine now, highlighting the global nature of the fight against ISIS. Yağlı also lamented that the case felt more like judicial harassment than a legitimate legal challenge.
The ‘Kobani trial’ in Turkey centres on events from 6-8 October 2014 when protests erupted over the Turkish government’s perceived inaction during the ISIS siege of the Syrian town of Kobani. Demonstrators sought greater Turkish support for Kurdish fighters in Kobani. After these protests, which resulted in multiple deaths, the Turkish authorities accused the pro-Kurdish political party HDP of inciting violence, and began arresting its members, including key politicians. The trial, initiated in April 2021, after the production of an indictment in December 2020, is seeking aggravated life imprisonment for the defendants on various charges.
Many view the trial as a political move to suppress the HDP and the wider Kurdish political movement in Turkey, linking the HDP to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and potentially dissolving the party. In light of the closure case looming at Turkey’s Constitutional Court, the HDP nominated candidates through the Green Left Party for this year’s elections, and has since rebranded itself as HEDEP.