Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Semra Güzel, a 38-year-old medical doctor, became the latest elected representative of this major left-wing party to be jailed in Turkey, on September 3. She is accused of “treason” and “membership in an armed terrorist organisation” — the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Thirteen HDP MPs have already lost their parliamentary seats since 2016, dozens have been arrested, and eleven other MPs, including former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, are imprisoned. This is despite rulings of the European Court of Human Rights against their imprisonment.
Güzel’s parliamentary immunity was lifted by a vote in the Turkish parliament, on March 1, after it was leaked that the Turkish military had found a photograph of her on a mobile phone recovered from the body of PKK guerrilla fighter Volkan Bora, in 2017.
Bora had been Güzel’s fiancee when they were both students back in 2009. However, Bora then joined the guerrillas and the two did not see each other for five years until they met up when the HDP made a Turkish-government-sanctioned visit to the PKK camp in South Kurdistan/northern Iraq in 2014 as part of a peace process that was scuttled by the Turkish state 2015.
That’s when the photo of Güzel and Bora was taken.
Güzel was elected to parliament in 2018, to represent the predominantly Kurdish city of Amed/Diyabakir.
The 2014 photo of Güzel and Bora was presented by the Turkish state as “evidence” of support for “terrorism” in the trials of more than a hundred HDP MPs, leaders and activists and in ongoing court action to ban the HDP.
The HDP executive board condemned the arrest as “more dirty politics” and said the arrest was being used by the ruling right-wing Justice and Development Party (AKP), as propaganda to influence next year’s general election.
“Of course, we do not trust the government-controlled judiciary and do not assume that they will make an independent decision. However, we are a party that has made the struggle against the mentality and apparatus of the AKP its basic principle.”
HDP Women's Council declared its solidarity and described Güzel’s arrest as an attempt by the misogynist state to distract public attention from its escalating abuses of human rights and political problems:
"You cannot cover up your own crimes with agitation and fueling nationalism, racism, sexism and misogyny. As women, we will not bow to this dirty politics."
Meanwhile, Güzel has sent this message through her lawyer to her supporters:
“Hello everyone. First of all, I must say that I am very good, because I am right. We are right. We all followed the process [leading to my arrest] closely. It was a completely illegal process. The decision was purely political. But rest assured, we will win, hope will win, peace will win, women will win, people will win. With love and respect to all of you.”