Turkey cannot afford to give up on democracy for Kurds – analyst

Turkey does not have the luxury of giving up on democracy for the country’s Kurds, who are disenchanted by the ongoing crackdown on the political movement representing them, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), wrote Halil Karaveli, editor of Turkey Analyst bi-weekly. 

As part of an effort to thwart a democratic alliance, the Turkish government is crippling the HDP by widening the crackdown on the group, which began in 2015, when it first entered the Turkish parliament establishing itself as the third biggest political party in the country, Karaveli said. 

Turkey’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) has intensified a crackdown on the Kurdish political movement since peace talks with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) broke down in 2015. The PKK is an armed group that has waged an armed insurgency in Turkey since 1984. 

HDP lawmakers and mayors have frequently been dismissed from their roles or faced legal charges for alleged PKK links.

The party’s former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ were arrested on terror charges in 2016. 

A total of 24 HDP mayors have been dismissed over terror charges and replaced with a government appointee since the local elections in March alone.

The HDP played a key role in the outcome of the local election in Istanbul, where secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu delivered a blow to the ruling AKP, the article said.

The loss of Istanbul, where Turkish President and AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan launched his political career, was a monumental defeat for his party, which, together with its Islamist predecessor, had ruled the city for 25 years.

Despite its success, HDP has become disillusioned by its ongoing democratic struggle within the system, Karaveli said, pointing to party considering last month a complete withdrawal from parliament in protest of the dismissal of mayors. 

In the end, the HDP decided against the move, calling instead for early general elections.

Former HDP leader Demirtaş has gone on record saying Kurds did not have the “luxury of giving up on coexistence and of returning to Kurdistan”.

A luxury that Ankara does not have, on the other hand, Karaveli said, is giving up on democracy for the Kurds.