War on Kurdish People Threatens Democracy in Turkey

Editorial Comment:

Days after this interview, Turkish police launched a raid on HDP offices in Istanbul.

August 11, 2016
HDP Istanbul provincial organisation and many district organisations were raided by special operations police in the very early hours of the morning. At least 15 people were detained in the operation. Police forces broke the doors to get into the HDP Tarlabaşı office where they conducted a search for hours. After the coup attempt of July 15, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan made statements pointing the HDP and Kurds as a target. HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş warned yesterday that attacks on HDP offices could increase in the coming period.

Via Tortilla Con Sal

Professor Mary Davis speaks to LEYLA BIRLIK, a Kurdish HDP MP in the Turkish parliament, about the government’s war on her people and region

Leyla Birlik: MP for Sirnak in South Eastern Turkey

The People’s Democratic Party (HDP) was founded in 2012. Please say something about its origins, policies and current strength in Turkey and the Turkish parliament.

The HDP emerged as the most comprehensive, organised form of the tradition of struggle for freedom, justice, equality, labour and democracy. This party has now become a beacon of hope and a platform of struggle for all oppressed sections.

The inspiration of our party is the universal struggle of humanity and the experience it has gained through struggle. Our party believes that humanity will attain a world without classes, borders or exploitation, and develops policies on this basis.

Our party opposes the imposition of a single-type Turkish nationality consisting of a single ethnic identity, culture and religion instead advocating a democratic country with a social life based on a voluntary co-existence of differences.

The presence of HDP in parliament, advocating as it does these principles, has created a backlash from the parties of the system which until now has maintained a racist, sexist hegemonic domination.

Since HDP represents — almost for the first time — all the peoples of Turkey, the other parties have engaged in all manner of dirty alliances in an effort to throw us out of parliament.

What is the relationship between the HDP and other Kurdish organisations eg the PKK and Abdullah Ocalan?

The PKK’s 40-year-long struggle and the perspective of a democratic nation, democratic Middle East and democratic civilisation put forward by Kurdish people’s leader Abdullah Ocalan has become a beacon of hope for all oppressed peoples, but first and foremost the peoples of Kurdistan and the Middle East.

Today in Rojava the YPG-YPJ forces, following the philosophical and social approach developed by Ocalan, are defending human values in a struggle against Isis terror in Syria and Sinjar.

We consider it a matter of principle to show solidarity with all struggles for freedom, equality and justice, as I mentioned above.

Please tell us something about the current situation in your city, Sirnak — curfews, military siege, collective punishment etc.

The HDP success in last year’s elections proved how strong the longing for tolerance of differences and democracy in Turkey is. Following this election a war was launched by the government against the popular mandate of the HDP. These atrocities went on for months, with the intention of punishing an entire society.

One of the most savage instances was that of Taybet, a mother whose corpse was left on the street for days in view of her children, who were refused permission to retrieve the body.

Another manifestation of the depraved male mentality of the oppressors was the stripping of dead women and the perpetration of savage immoral acts.

All the people demanded was the right to organise and govern themselves, and to protect their social and cultural values — a fundamental human right.

The state, faced with this resistance, has become divided and, like other governments that have tried to resolve the Kurdish question through repression, it’s nearing the end of its rule.

The provincial capital of Sirnak was under curfew for 135 days. During this time seven of its 12 neighbourhoods were completely destroyed. Entry to and exit from Sirnak is still forbidden.

Despite the announcement of an end to operations on June 3, they are continuing, resulting in the displacement of 40,000 of the 60,000 inhabitants. Around 4,000 people are sheltering in tents outside the city and in villages that were emptied in the 1990s. The remainder of the population have moved to neighbouring districts and provinces.

It would be insufficient to merely evaluate this process as one of a physical massacre, the destruction of people’s homes; it is also intended to destroy people’s bonds to their roots and their society.

What practical solidarity strategies would you advocate which can best assist the Kurdish people and expose the brutality of the Erdogan regime?

Erdogan caused the death of hundreds of innocent people by the bombardment of Kurdish towns. He made hundreds of thousands homeless and turned them into refugees in their own country. The entire world stood by and watched all this take place.

We face a Europe which remains silent for the sake of an agreement on refugees and for its own interests. To continue this is to invite even greater disasters.

This savagery must be condemned, sanctions introduced and anyone with a conscience must engage in solidarity with the Kurdish people.

A strong democracy front must also be established in Turkey.

What do you think were the causes of the attempted coup in Turkey, which the HDP has condemned?

Turkey has not really properly confronted its past military coups. This is one of the main reasons.

A civil coup took place in February 2015, when a switch to a de facto presidential system took place.

A power struggle between the Gulen movement named after the US-based cleric of that name and Erdogan’s ruling AKP developed over a period of 14 years and took root in the state apparatus.

When in February 2015 the negotiations were abandoned and the initiative handed to the armed forces to treat the Kurdish question as one of security — this was inviting a coup environment. Hence, Ocalan’s observation that “if the process of resolution ends they will attempt to implement a coup in Turkey. The process of resolution is an obstacle to this,” should be considered.

The present decision to introduce a state of emergency is one that will silence the voice of the opposition and weaken democracy, not strengthen it.

Is Erdogan’s reaction to the coup intensifying the repression of the Kurdish community?

The rule by edict, extension of the period of detention to 30 days, debate over the reintroduction of the death penalty and the suspension of fundamental rights is not the way to combat a coup.

The pre-coup period needs to be properly analysed, its origins examined and the instigators given a fair trial. I feel that unless the political structures behind the coup are exposed, the superficial measures now being taken will not only target those implicated directly but also intimidate and suppress the opposition.

As a party that gained six million votes and is the third largest in Parliament, the HDP considers that ignoring the Kurdish question is a decades-old state policy and until it is abandoned we will not be able to talk about democracy in Turkey.

The PKK has alleged that Turkey is in league with Islamic State and some news outlets have also documented what appears to be assistance given to Islamist terrorists in Syria. Does the HDP have a view on this?

Documents and witnesses exist to prove Turkey’s aiding Isis — the trucks carrying arms stopped in Adana etc. It demonstrates the government’s ideological and strategic partnership with Isis who it chooses as allies over Syrian Kurds on its border.

It is no coincidence that after every Isis atrocity the world begins to discuss Turkey’s relationship with it. Despite the HDP’s repeated warnings the Erdogan government continues its support for Isis and after every massacre it raises the issue of the YPG and PYD, which are actually fighting Isis.

In this way it follows a policy of equating those fighting against Isis with that organisation.

Leyla Birlik was born in Mardin Derik on March 3 1974. She completed her secondary education in the Province of Mersin in Turkey. In the elections that took place in Turkey in 2009 she was elected onto the general council in the province of Sirnak. After, she was elected to take part in the Women’s Commission of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). She was an active member of the party and her major role was to work with women and children.

In 2011 Birlik was judged without trial and arrested as part of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) trials. She was released in 2015 with her trial pending. In 2015 she was elected to the Turkish parliament in the June election and then re-elected again in the November snap election due to there not being a coalition between the parties.

She is currently an MP for the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) which is struggling for human rights, peace and, democracy. The AKP’s attacks and the “presidential coup” against the HDP led to the lifting of the parliamentary immunities of the HDP deputies, including Leyla Birlik. Despite all attacks, Birlik, like the HDP itself, is still continuing her struggle for peace and democracy.

KCK Statement on the Coup Attempt in Turkey
HDP Statement on Attempted Coup: “Our Stance Against the Coup is Clear”