A “solidarity selfie” campaign has drawn the support of Australian mayors, councillors, MPs, artists, religious leaders, trade unionists and activists to support Kurdish mayors and parliamentarians who have been undemocratically removed from office and imprisoned by the Turkish government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The persecuted Kurdish mayors and MPs belong to the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) one of the major opposition parties in parliament in Turkey.
The Kurdish solidarity group Rojava Solidarity (Sydney) initiated the campaign, which asks people to take a “selfie” with a sign indicating their solidarity and/or record a short video message of solidarity. The hashtag #Solidarity4HDPfromAustralia is used to share the “solidarity selfies” on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Mayor of Fremantle Dr Brad Pettitt was the first Australian mayor to take part and many city and regional councillors have participated. These include Sue Bolton (Moreland socialist Councillor), Rob Pyne (Cairns regional Councillor), Marghanita da Cruz (Inner West Sydney Councillor) and Sam Wainwright (Fremantle socialist Councillor).
NSW Green MPs David Shoebridge, Jenny Leong and Jamie Parker joined the campaign and Shoebridge moved a motion of solidarity in the NSW Parliament. Former NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon also took a selfie.
Reverend Bill Crews, a prominent cleric and welfare leader joined in the campaign.
Artist Vivian Messimeris, whose "Women Of Rojava" series of screen prints have won awards, was an early participant.
“We are using this campaign to inform Australians about the brutal persecution of the Kurds by the Turkish state,” Peter Boyle from Rojava Solidarity (Sydney) explained.
“We hope this will win more ‘mountains’ for the Kurdish people, whose liberation struggle has set an example of inclusiveness, grassroots democracy and gender equality in the Middle East. It is this example that tyrants like Erdoğan fear and hate,” Boyle said.
The campaign aims to tell people that 45 of the 65 municipalities won by the HDP in March last year have been seized, and 22 co-mayors have been arrested.
On June 5, Turkish authorities also detained two HDP parliamentarians — one of them the prominent Kurdish woman leader Leyla Guven — after removing their parliamentary status.
Similar attacks happened before last year’s election. Between 2016 and 2018, the Turkish government seized 95 of the102 Kurdish mayorships and arrested 93 of its mayors. The majority are still imprisoned.
Former HDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ were among 13 HDP MPs arrested then. In addition, around 15,000 HDP members and office bearers were detained. Around 5000 of those are still imprisoned.
[Ismet Tastan is a member of Rojava Solidarity – Sydney and co-chair of the Federation of Democratic Kurdish Society in Australia.]