Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition elects new leaders
Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party elected new leaders on Sunday, at a congress that party officials said authorities had tried to stop by arresting hundreds of would-be attendees.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) met to replace Selahattin Demirtaş, its leader since June 2014, as he is in jail facing charges of supporting terrorism.
Demirtaş said he would not seek re-election, Reuters reported.
The party unanimously elected Istanbul lawmaker Pervin Buldan and Deputy Co-Chairman Sezai Temelli, the only candidates, as the new leaders of the second-largest opposition party in Turkey’s parliament.
Buldan’s husband was murdered in 1994, after the government said it had a list of businesspeople who were funding the PKK. The killer was never identified.
Buldan campaigned against extrajudicial killings for years and entered into politics from the Kurdish movement in 1999.
The party delegates’ cars were stopped, and they were subjected to frequent ID checks by police who detained around 500 people in the days leading up to the congress, attended by 32,000 members and supporters, Reuters quoted HDP officials as saying.
Former co-chair Serpil Kemalbay called the arrests “arbitrary” and said the government had tried to stop the congress “being held in a healthy way”, Reuters said.
The detentions were part of Turkey’s crackdown on those who oppose its operation against the YPG militia in northwestern Syria’s Afrin.
Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and has detained some 600 people for protests or social media posts against the campaign.
Former leader Demirtaş faces up to 142 years in prison. He and other HDP members are accused of links to the PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency and is classed by Turkey, the United States and the European Union as a terrorist group.
The Kurdish lawmakers deny the charges, which they say are politically motivated.
Under Turkish law, someone convicted of terrorism cannot be a member of a political party.