On 14 October, in the first face-to-face interview since his imprisonment in November 2016, Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), answered questions from the Kısa Dalga’s Beril Eski, in a room allocated for meetings with lawyers, where they sat separated by a glass screen.
Eski says Demirtaş looked cheerful, and after a fist bump against the screen they started talking through microphones. This is an excerpt from the interview she held with Demirtaş.
You had a serious medical condition, and your doctor said you might have a heart attack. How is your health now?
I already had chronic illnesses before I was imprisoned, including some that can’t be treated in prison, unfortunately, and they have got worse here. Especially those related to the stomach and oesophagus have got worse. I still try to look after myself though.
Can you access medical services?
I don’t get positive discrimination, but I am able to access the limited medical services in the prison when I feel the need.
Is there any difference from the services other prisoners can access? Are they sufficient?
I can say that I’m kept in isolation. I’m in a two-man cell and apart from my cellmate I haven’t had any contact with any other prisoner during the five years I’ve been here. So I don’t have direct information on what medical services the other prisoners get. But they’re not provided with sufficient medical services either as far as I hear from my lawyers and the press.
I want to get into the recent discussions on the interlocutors [of the Kurdish Question]. After a statement from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) that they saw the HDP as the interlocutor regarding the Kurdish Question, Sezai Temelli said that the ‘interlocutor is İmralı Prison’ (where the Kurdish leader Öcalan is held). Then you said that HDP was the interlocutor not only in the Kurdish Question but in all issues. Why is there such disarray in the party?
I don’t think there is any disarray on this matter. A party would be denying its own existence if it didn’t see itself as the interlocutor in resolving any issue. On the other hand, saying that other actors ought to be involved in the solution process because armed struggle and violence are also part of the Kurdish Question, doesn’t preclude the role of the HDP as the interlocutor. It’s also possible that there are different opinions within the HDP. But what counts is the decision of the party as a whole, and the HDP has done well by positioning itself as a genuine interlocutor.
There have been comments that Sezai Temelli’s remarks support the government’s claim that “the PKK and the HDP are one and the same”.
Those who say that the PKK and the HDP are one and the same are not only wrong, but they’re also deceiving others. The HDP represents nobody except the masses that support it; and neither is it a political branch or an extension of the PKK. The HDP is a constitutional party engaged in a democratic political struggle.
For the first time in the last five years, Erdoğan sounded in favour of the solution process in a speech he gave in Diyarbakır in July. Do you think this may be a signal for the beginning of a new solution process?
No, I don’t think Erdoğan is thinking of starting another solution process. In fact, he is constantly saying that there is no Kurdish Question. Why would he start a solution process for something he doesn’t even think exists? On the other hand, I’m positive that Erdoğan regrets having terminated the solution process, because he hasn’t been able to pull himself together since. He tried to compensate for the legitimacy he lost by becoming more authoritarian. He’s actually allergic to democracy. In the last five or six years he’s deviated substantially from it and has lost it irreversibly. He will now be remembered as an authoritarian leader and that is that.
What went wrong with the solution process?
We’ve talked about this a lot. The most negative things were the lack of transparency in the process, and the failure both to get the people’s total support for it, and to bring the issue to the National Assembly. The National Assembly, not individuals, should have been responsible for the process. We weren’t able to manage this at the time. We tried hard to get the Republican People’s Party involved in bringing the issue to the Assembly, but we always met with obstacles. For instance, Erdoğan wanted to control everything. Can you imagine that we, the co-chairs of the People’s Democratic Party, weren’t able to meet with him even once during the solution process? And Turkey should be aware of one thing: After the Dolmabahçe Agreement on 28 February 2015, the PKK was ready to announce that it would cease armed activities within 10 days. But Erdoğan didn’t permit it. The Group of Wise People [a group of civilians constituted by the Turkish government for the purposes of the solution process] were to visit Imralı one last time and return with the message announcing the end of armed struggle. The rest was to be sorted out through democratic processes and in parliament. Erdoğan ended the process as soon as he saw that a permanent peace would not be in his favour or beneficial to his party in the elections. The person who prevented the Group of Wise People from visiting Imralı was Erdoğan himself. My words, ‘We will not allow you to become president’ came after that.