Nov 09 2017

Twitter campaign for jailed Turkish party leader

The Turkish pro-minority Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) has begun a social media campaign to support its jailed co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş with the hashtag #DemirtasiCokOzledik (we missed Demirtaş so much).

A number of artists, journalists and academics backed the campaign in support of Demirtaş, who has been held in detention on terror-related charges for more than a year.

 

Journalist and activist Nurcal Baysal wrote "We miss you very much, but most of all, for this!" and shared an earlier tweet by Demirtaş which says:

"Even when you are heavyhearted, don't look down, but look at the horizon. You will most certainly see the hope. If you don't see it at first, keep looking until you do."

Demirtaş was detained on November 4th, 2016 and prosecutors have demanded he be sentenced to up to 142 years in jail on 32 charges related to political rallies he held during election campaigns. The leader of the third largest party in parliament is accused of seeking to create an independent Kurdistan, aiding and abetting terrorists, spreading terrorist propaganda, inciting terrorism and praising terrorist acts and terrorists.

A lawyer by profession, Demirtaş has asked to defend himself in person when he appears before a court in the capital Ankara on Dec. 7, instead of via video link from the jail where he is being held in Edirne, close to the Greek and Bulgarian borders.

"According to our criminal law, a person has the right to appear before a judicial officer to determine the length of pre-trial detention. This right, perhaps for the first time in the history of the republic has not been recognised," Demirtaş’s lawyer Mahsuni Karaman told Ahval.

Human rights groups say that lengthy pre-trial detention periods in Turkey are used as punishment.

Comparatively youthful and an eloquent speaker, Demirtaş helped broaden the HDP’s appeal from its base in the mainly Kurdish southeast to liberal voters elsewhere in Turkey hostile to the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and tired of the main secularist opposition.

Renowned Turkish sociologist İsmail Beşikçi shared a photo of Demirtaş playing the Turkish folk instrument, saz, and added a verse from Ahmet Kaya's song, Adı Bahtiyar.

"His crime was playing saz as far as I know..."

The HDP received more than 5 million votes in the last election in November 2015 and became the third biggest party in parliament, though its support dropped from the previous elections in June the same year after the conflict with Kurdish separatists reignited in July.

Demirtaş and eight other HDP parliamentarians are now in jail.

"Mr. Demirtaş is being held in prison unlawfully. He is held hostage because there is no legal base to the accusations. There is no crime committed. They are detained for political reasons. Mr. Demirtaş received votes from all ethnic groups in this country,” Pervin Buldan, an HDP member of parliament for Istanbul, told Ahval. “All elected officials should be released."

HDP deputy Ahmet Yıldırım said he was supporting the social media campaign. "Demirtaş is not alone. He is universally respected and loved by his voters," he told Ahval.

"Actually, we miss the politics of peace very much," said HDP Istanbul parliamentary deputy Garo Paylan.

Speaking of the Twitter campaign, HDP Mardin deputy Mithat Sancar said that Demirtaş’s passion had impacted a broad section of the society. 

"This detention did not just create a reaction from the society, it created a greater human response," Sancar said.