No Turkish government has been as hostile to Kurds - HDP deputy

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Şanlıurfa deputy Osman Baydemir is no stranger to controversy. The former mayor of Diyarbakır was most recently in the spotlight due to being banned from Parliament for his use of the word "Kurdistan" during a General Assembly session.

Ahval caught up with Baydemir to talk about the ongoing state of emergency, Turkey's political climate and the upcoming elections. The 46-year-old deputy maintained that as we head towards the 2019 elections the priority for political parties looking to form alliances must be lifting the state of emergency, and said that no political party in the history of Turkey has been as hostile towards Kurds as the current leading power.


You were barred from Parliament for saying the word "Kurdistan." What is your take on the measure?

I stand behind my words. As a matter of fact, I think this measure is against all Kurdish citizens of Turkey, not just me. With this decision, the governing party (AKP) is saying that this parliament is not and will not be a platform for the representatives of Kurdish people.

Another current issue is the upcoming 2019 elections and the formation of possible alliances between political parties. What do you think about the potential partnerships for 2019?

First, let's make it clear that the regime in Turkey cannot be defined as a democracy at this time. Turkey is under a state of emergency, but the Kurdish regions remain under martial law. We cannot start talking about the 2019 elections before we address this problem.

Why do you think the government does not want to lift the state of emergency?

Because they're afraid of losing their power. Democracy requires a peaceful transfer of power. Yet the government is in fear of losing the control they maintain. Therefore, they keep extending the state of emergency and limiting freedoms in Turkey in order to avoid fair and free elections in this country.

But the government did not recognize the June 7th, 2015 general elections before the state of emergency either…

Exactly. Erdoğan single-handedly stopped the [Kurdish] Peace Process and reinstated civil war. I will repeat it: it is a civil war.

So far, at least 3000 people have lost their lives since the Peace Process has ended. The  Erdoğan regime threatened Turkish citizens in order to win the November 1st [2015] repeat elections. He [effectively] said, "Vote for me if you want stability!"

But the opposition is focused on 2019 and forming election alliances…

Before we can discuss election alliances, we must be able to create an atmosphere for fair and free elections to take place in Turkey. First and foremost, the goal of every political party right now needs to be the lifting of the state of emergency and the establishment of an environment allowing for free and fair elections.

We need to form alliances to free jailed journalists. We need to build partnerships to return to a democratic environment.

We have repeatedly said that unless our party's [HDP] elected mayors are released, the removal of other parties' mayors would follow. As a matter of fact, first they forced their own mayors to resign, and now they removed a CHP mayor. This will keep continuing. In that respect I repeat: before [we address] electoral alliances, we must form a coalition to end the state of emergency.

You mentioned the removed mayors and said that the government will very likely remove other mayors as well. What do the local elections mean in this context?

It means that AKP does not perceive elections as a democratic race anymore. At this point, the people who vote for and support AKP are 'nationalists' and represent the 'national will'; the rest are "treasonous traitors"regardless of which political party they are affiliated with.

Surveys show that most Kurdish people are against the appointed "trustee" mayors. My feeling is that if we had an election tomorrow, the HDP would win all the mayoral races in towns where mayors were replaced by trustees.

How do you define the role of the HDP in the upcoming elections?

We don't have an electoral threshold problem. We are a pluralist party representing every ethnic group in this society. I think the recent developments prove the need for a democratic party like the HDP that is welcoming of every segment of this nation.

It has been reported in the media that the government is planning on establishing a single member district system. If this is the case, would it limit HDP to a specific geographical region?

It's not that simple. Our policies, our ideas, our statements, our values are for every part of Turkey, not just the provinces that we win. We are advocating for Turkey [as a whole].

But the representatives have no legislative power in the new presidential system. Parliament has no function. There are no checks and balances. The legislature, the judiciary, and the executive are all controlled by the president.

We are facing a much bigger problem than the single member district system. In this new system, the president can govern the country through executive orders. Parliament is just a formality. Why would the president want to legislate through parliament when they can issue executive orders?

Does HDP have a candidate for 2019 presidential elections?

We haven't discussed these issues in our committees as of yet. Our priority right now is to create an environment for a fair and free election.

There are reports of Turkish military possibly extending its operations to the Afrin region of Syria. What do you think of such an incursion?

I don't believe it will help anyone in the region. The Middle East, unfortunately, is becoming more and more unstable by the day. But my feeling is, if the Turkish military indeed conducts an operation inside of Afrin, it may factor into a decision such as what followed Saddam's [Hussein] invasion of Kuwait.

So why do you think the government is planning on a military operation?

The fundamental reason is hostility against Kurdish people. For the last three years, the AKP government has been very publicly hostile towards the Kurdish people and causes.

They lost Kurdistan. They lost the Kurdish people at a critical moment in history. This is not a merely a fracture; the Kurdish people have lost their trust in both the government and the AKP.

The people of Turkey, especially AKP voters, should know that no Turkish government has ever been as hostile to the Kurdish people as this one.

But the Peace Process was negotiated with this government as well…

They put an end to the process just before it was successful and that is the bottom line. More than 80 percent of the Turkish electorate supported the negotiations. We had an opportunity to solve the Kurdish problem, but this government ended the process for political reasons.

Is it possible to restart the negotiations?

I don't think so. The government is relying on anti-Kurdish policies for its survival. This will continue as long as AKP is the governing party. All of Turkey should know that this administration squandered the opportunities for a harmonious and peaceful Turkey for its own political gains.