Jailed Kurdish politician Demirtaş urges opposition to unite against Erdoğan gov’t

The jailed former co-chair of Turkey’s opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has called for the opposition to unite against rising oppression and moves to divide them, including a court case calling for the closure of the HDP.

Turkish opposition should form an alliance against the alliance between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) now rather than wait until elections scheduled for 2023, Demirtaş told Reuters, responding to the agency’s questions in writing on Monday. 

Turkey’s ruling People’s Alliance has cast aside “virtually all their founding principles”, said Demirtaş, who has been jailed over terror charges since 2016.

“There is nothing they wouldn’t do to stay in power. And yes, all this shows that their political options have lessened,” he added. 

“All parties which want to fight side-by-side for democracy must come together,” Demirtaş said. 

In Turkey’s 2018 parliamentary elections, Erdoğan’s ruling AKP and its far-right ally, MHP, received a combined 54 percent of the vote. But backing for the People’s Alliance has been on the decline due to Turkey’s economic difficulties and increasing distrust in the judiciary, according to recent polls.

Support for the alliance has dropped to 46 percent, Diken news website reported last month, citing the average of polls conducted by 16 polling companies over the last three months.

The former HDP leader, speaking on his imprisonment, said he felt well, strong and in good morale, with a clear conscience.

“We were abducted from our homes one midnight in an illegal way and turned into political hostages. For this reason we are proud,” Demirtaş said. “Those who threw us here are in shame and distress. They have passed into the dirty pages of history.”

Demirtaş is facing up to 142 years in prison for a variety of terrorism charges, including charges of propaganda over his speeches as a member of parliament and incitement to violence over his call for democratic protests for the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani. He was arrested in Nov. 2016, together with co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ and several HDP deputies.

In December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) called on Turkey to immediately release the Kurdish politician, saying the years-long detention of the former HDP leader was a cover for limiting pluralism and political debate in the country.