Erdoğan pursuing religious coup in Turkey with help of courts, jailed Kurdish MP says

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has used a failed military coup in 2016 as an excuse to enact his own “coup against society” and pursue a “monotheistic, bourgeois, sexist, religious regime”, jailed Kurdish politician Sebahat Tuncel said in an article for socialist magazine Jacobin on Monday.

“As far as the Kurds and their friends are concerned, Turkish law is interpreted in arbitrary ways,” said Tuncel, a former parliamentarian of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has been behind bars for almost five years.

Erdoğan has attempted and succeeded in imposing his will on the judiciary, including in the case of jailed former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, Tuncel said. Following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in December 2020 calling for the immediate release of Demirtaş, Erdoğan said the court could not rule in a way that bypassed the Turkish judiciary.

The president’s views “were accepted by the Turkish court as an order”, Tuncel said.

Other interference by Erdoğan in the judiciary included a lawsuit against more than 100 HDP politicians for their alleged role in a series of street protests in 2014, Tuncel said. The proceedings were “carried out in the shadow of earlier instructions given by the government to the justice system”, she said.

At least 34 people lost their lives during the street protests in several provinces between Oct. 6 and Oct. 8, 2014. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against an Islamic State (ISIS) siege of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani and after Erdoğan said the town was “about to fall”.

“It has been revealed that the Kobanê case was a revenge case,” Tuncel said. It was “an attempt to throw the HDP out of democratic politics; it had nothing to do with uncovering the truth and serving justice.”

Nation-states have contradicted their own laws “in pursuit of their interests”, resulting in “policies of oppression, persecution, and violence against the Kurdish people in Turkey”, Tuncel said. “The Kurdish people have always rebelled against these policies.”

A pushback against such policies succeeded with “the huge movement of international solidarity that emerged when Kobanê was attacked in 2014”, she said.

The proponents of democracy and peace in Turkey “will resist the way we have resisted for a hundred years”, she said, adding that the fight to defend democracy, equality and peace would continue and “at the same time, we will continue to resist and struggle to establish the foundational principle of HDP: free life”.

Tuncel is among the 108 people on trial in the Kobani case. She was remanded in custody in October while already serving a sentence of more than 12 years in prison on charges of terrorist propaganda and membership of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

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