The People’s Democratic Party (HDP), a broad-based left-wing group largely initiated by Kurdish forces in Turkey, has faced the full brunt of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarian crackdown.
More than 10,000 HDP members have been arrested, along with its leaders and dozens of elected officials — often on trumped-up charges of “supporting terrorism” in retaliation for the HDP’s support for the struggle of the Kurdish community for democratic rights.
The HDP has been in the regime’s sights since it won more than 13% of the vote in 2015 elections, denying Erdogan his goal of more than two-thirds control of parliament needed to strengthen his authoritarian powers. The crackdown coincided with an ending of peace talks with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a violent assault on Kurdish areas in Turkey’s east.
The HDP’s third congress took place in Ankara on February 11, in the midst of Turkey’s ongoing bloody military assault on the largely Kurdish canton of Afrin in Syria’s north. Authorities arrested hundreds of would-be attendees ahead of the congress, but thousands defied the regime to take part.
Hisyar Ozsoy is a vice co-chair of the HDP and a member of parliament. He spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Peter Boyle about the Congress and the HDP’s struggles.
What was the most important outcome of your latest Congress?
Since the end of the peace talks (in effect between 2013 and 2015) between the Turkish government and Kurdish movement, the HDP has faced intense pressures. Not only our co-chairs and MPs, but also more than 10,000 HDP members and administrators were detained and many of them jailed.
The government and its media have been carrying out psychological warfare and systematic criminalisation against our party. Its goal is establishing a climate of fear among HDP supporters.
Despite all this unlawful political pressure, the participation of tens of thousands of people in the congress and the spirit of resistance that marked the day showed that the HDP cannot be defeated by politics of repression and fear. We will survive this relentless onslaught against our party.
The Turkish government made several arrests of HDP politicians and other members in the lead up to the congress. What was its objective and was it successful?
The pressures on us did increase in the lead up to the congress. Many of our executives who have a central role in the preparation of the congress and leaders of our constituents were detained. The objective was to prevent us from having a powerful congress; but the government could not achieve this goal.
Was a resolution passed on the Turkish military attack on Afrin in northern Syria?
Almost every speaker at the congress condemned the invasion of Afrin and saluted the resistance there. The congress expressed its solidarity with the people of Afrin and called on the national and international community to promote politics of peace and end the war and further militarisation of the conflict in Syria.
There were many prominent international guests present, it was reported. Can you list some of these?
Among the more than 70 international participants were many representatives of foreign missions in Turkey, deputy secretary general of the Party of the European Left, chair of European United Left-Nordic Green left (UE/NGL) group in European parliament, many Kurdish politicians from Iraq, the symbolic representative of Palestinian struggle Leila Khaled, and many representatives of political parties from Europe.
After the Congress, the pro-Erdogan media made various accusations against the HDP. What were these and what was HDP's response?
Erdogan himself targeted us again because of the speeches of our newly elected co-chairs, former co-chair and members of the board of congress, in particular, the speeches on the invasion of Afrin.
Erdogan is terrorising all critical voices against the invasion and pro-Erdogan media has vilified the HDP in almost every single media broadcast. Our former co-chair Serpil Kemalbay and many other members and administrators across the country were detained and many of them were arrested and jailed.
Our response is to wage a more decisive struggle for democracy, justice and peace. The pressure from this dictatorial government only shows that the HDP is on the right path.