Turkey’s main opposition alliance has remained resolutely silent in the face of the widely publicised arrest of Kurdish MP Semra Güzel, who was filmed by journalists as she was handcuffed and roughly manhandled last Friday.
Numerous political parties and NGOs have called on the opposition and the public to speak out against the treatment of Güzel, warning that the government’s crackdown on dissenters leaves no one safe, and pointing out the arrest will aggravate the already difficult situation faced by Turkey’s Kurdish political movement.
Yet the alliance of six parties built around Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and nationalist Good Party (IYI Party) has remained persistently silent on the arrest of their parliamentary colleague.
When Güzel, an elected MP from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was arrested on Friday, HDP officials said the media had collaborated with the interior ministry to report Güzel’s arrest before her own party was even informed about it.
During the media frenzy following the arrest, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu addressed a tweet to CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, suggesting that he would be “saddened” by the news.
The tweet included a photograph of Güzel with a militant from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – an image which resulted in the vote to strip the HDP of her parliamentary immunity from prosecution last March.
HDP officials said the photograph had been taken in 2014, during peace talks between the AKP and PKK, and that it was taken during a state-sanctioned visit to a PKK camp.
Nevertheless, deputies from the CHP and Good Party joined the ruling coalition in the vote to strip Güzel of her immunity, which passed with 313 votes in favour and just 52 against.
Responding to Soylu’s tweet on Saturday, Kılıçdaroğlu referred the matter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, saying simply, “This requires attention”. The CHP leader has made no other public statement on the matter so far.
Meanwhile, five political parties including the HDP and two NGOs have issued a joint statement calling on the opposition and the public to speak out against the treatment of Güzel.
“The arrest and detention of a woman parliamentarian with handcuffs on her back, by pulling her hair and trying to force her to bow her head, is an attempt at intimidation against all opposition forces,” the statement said.
“No one who stands up for labour, democracy and freedoms should remain silent about the treatment of Semra Güzel,” it said. “This unacceptable treatment of an MP is a sign that no one, who does not think like the government, is safe … (The) security measures, the attempts to eliminate democratic politics and the hostile attitude towards Kurdish elected representatives have only aggravated the Kurdish question, which is one of the most important issues in Turkey, and will continue to do so.”
The statement was signed by the labour Party (EMEP), the Labourer’s Action Party (EHP), the community organisation Halkevleri (People’s Houses), HDP, SMF (Socialist Councils Federation), the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) and the Community Freedom Party (TÖP).