Jailed Kurdish politician Demirtaş: 'We continue our struggle together with all opposition'

Former leader of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş said his party is committed to maintain its peaceful struggle, while calling for international cooperation and solidarity against discrimination in a letter he sent to the award ceremony on Saturday, which was published in full by the HDP.

The jailed politician wrote the letter to be read by his wife Başak Demirtaş as the acceptance speech for an award for special political courage.

In his letter Demirtaş, who has been in prison in Turkey since November 2016, said people came from different parts of the world “to look for ways to grow the struggle for a better, freer, more democratic and more dignified life.”

Demirtaş commended efforts to “develop democratic alternatives against the current neo-liberal capitalist order that is built upon systemic and unlimited exploitation of nature, labour, and culture.” 

International support and solidarity adds to the courage of people who resist oppression in Turkey, Demirtaş said, pointing to those he called political prisoners. 

Thousands of HDP members are currently in Turkey’s prisons, most awaiting trial, on charges related to alleged ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an outlawed organisation that has continued an armed insurgency on Turkish soil for three decades.

Many HDP officials are among the imprisoned, including Demirtaş’s co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ and several former lawmakers.

Twenty district and province mayors from the HDP have been removed from their posts and replaced with government-appointed trustees. A majority of the dismissed mayors are also in pre-trial detention.

Demirtaş himself faces several life sentences over various charges.

“I am being prosecuted with 122 investigations that demand thousands of years of prison sentence for the speeches I had made during the twelve years when I was a member of parliament and then the co-chair of a political party,” he wrote. “In reality, though, there is absolutely no legal basis of these prosecutions: I have been in prison since 4 November 2016 as a political hostage.” 

Demirtaş dedicated the award to all political prisoners in Turkey.