Former British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and American philosopher Noam Chomsky are among more than 50 politicians and intellectuals from 22 countries who have called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to end legal attacks against Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
The left-wing HDP, the third biggest party in the Turkish parliament, is embroiled in a trial that could see it banned for alleged links to the outlawed militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) before Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for May 14.
The foreign politicians and intellectuals have signed a letter in support of the HDP that was organised by Progressive International, a global network of progressive parties, movements, unions and campaigns. Other signatories include former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, Spanish European parliament member Idoia Villanueva and co-chair of German party Die Linke, Janine Wissler.
The authors of the letter contend that “if the Erdogan government dissolves the HDP, it will likewise dissolve the foundations of democracy in Turkey”. They also argue that the possibility the party “could be permanently banned so close to the upcoming elections places Turkish democracy in dire jeopardy”.
The HDP, which given its sizeable support could prove the kingmaker in the elections, has always denied any connections to the PKK. Ertugrul Kurkcu, honorary president of the HDP, and a veteran socialist activist who spent 14 years in prison in the 1970s and 1980s, told Middle East Eye (MEE) on March 13 that Erdogan “wants to get rid of the presence of the HDP in parliament—he hopes voters will move from us to the AKP [Erdogan’s ruling party]”.
However, Kurkcu pointed out: “The general inclination among the Kurdish people is to vote for whoever gets rid of Erdogan.”
He added in his remarks to MEE: “Turkish democracy depends on the Kurdish question because what you have right now is a kind of neo-colonialism for the Kurds and authoritarianism for the rest of the population.”
Scores of HDP members and officials, including two former party co-leaders, are presently in jail in Turkey, while 108 top representatives of the party are on trial over a tweet that was sent out in 2014 in solidarity with the mainly Kurdish population of the town of Kobani in Syria.
On April 11, the Constitutional Court will hear HDP co-chairs Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar argue against the attempt to dissolve the party. The court’s final ruling on the matter could be announced at any time prior to the mid-May elections.
The case began in March last year. Bekir Sahin, chief public prosecutor of the Court of Cassation, asked the Constitutional Court to proscribe the HDP, citing the party’s alleged links to the PKK.
Last week, the Constitutional Court removed its block on state aid funding that goes to the HDP. It was previously frozen on January 5 in relation to the case made by Sahin. Erdogan’s ruling coalition ally, the far right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), responded to the restoration of the funding by saying the court should be dissolved.
Kurkcu was also reported as saying that the “Turkish military and security elite is of the opinion that the HDP’s presence upsets the existence of a one-nation Turkey by giving the Kurdish people the hope of self-determination. This is an imaginary belief but it is a very strong preoccupation.”
Kurkcu also stated that his party was expecting to support Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the candidate selected last week by the six-party Nation Alliance or “Table of Six” opposition coalition (which does not include the HDP) to battle Erdogan for the presidency.
Kilicdaroglu, who leads the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), would “definitely visit” the HDP, said Kurkcu.