Erdoğan aims to remove Turkey's Kurdish party from politics
With 11 of its elected representatives, including co-leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, behind bars, accused of supporting terrorism, one could easily say Turkey's State of Emergency, issued after the July 2016 failed coup, targeted its pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), the most.
In an op-ed for The Arab Weekly, author and academic Shane Brennan says:
In degrading the HDP by attrition and its wider support base by linking the party with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) at every turn, Erdogan’s apparent aim is to remove it as an actor from the political arena.
Brennan, who wrote a book titled Turkey and the Politics of National Identity, reminds that it was Erdoğan's reforms that decriminalised the use of Kurdish language and made the ground for launching a Kurdish TV channel at the public broadcaster, TRT, helped Kurds own their identity in the last decade.
Yet, when in 2015, Kurds' own political party made a "very public refusal" of Erdoğan's ambitions for a powerful presidency, and the Kurds across the border in Syria got some visible success in their demands for autonomy, the terms have changed.
In Erdoğan's defence, Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the armed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), had never ceased influence over the Kurdish youth. In the summer of 2015, doomed to fail self-rule experiment in the Southeast Turkey left hundreds of young activists dead, and the government's heavy handed military response razed Kurdish-majority cities, amounting to a change in the region's demography.
Under these circumstances, the July 2016 coup attempt in Turkey did nothing but to provide Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) with an effective means of silencing opposition.
HDP co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag (since replaced) have been in prison for a year. In the absence of a credible judiciary, their eventual release will likely be tied to the political climate. However, even if they have been temporarily silenced, their imprisonment speaks loudly to a repression of Kurdish identity and a fundamental democratic deficit in the Turkish Republic.