Crackdown on the Kurdish Political Movement and Opposition Groups: 2022 in Review

The Turkish government ramped up its crackdown on the Kurdish political movement in 2022 with a view to weakening the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the third largest political party in parliament. The HDP is currently facing the threat of closure ahead of a general election in May, and in December Turkey’s chief prosecutor asked the Constitutional Court to strip the HDP of government funding over its alleged links to an outlawed terrorist organization.

Several opposition groups also came under intense pressure in 2022, and individuals linked to such groups were detained by the Turkish authorities. Detentions during the year indicated that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was determined to step up pressure on critical groups and individuals both inside and outside Turkey.

Selahattin Demirtaş, the HDP’s former leader and an outspoken critic of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, President Erdoğan, remained behind bars on politically motivated charges despite rulings by Turkey’s Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Scores of former HDP politicians are also in prison either in pretrial detention or serving sentences after being convicted of terrorism offenses for non-violent political activities, speeches and social media postings.

According to the Ministry of Interior, Ankara has ousted a total of 151 elected mayors from office on accusations of terrorism in the last seven years, almost all from the HDP, replacing them with government-appointed bureaucrats. State-appointed trustees now administer nearly all towns and cities in southeastern Turkey.

In December an İstanbul court sentenced Ekrem İmamoğlu, mayor of İstanbul from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), to two years, seven months in prison and barred him from politics for allegedly insulting members of Turkey’s Supreme Board of Elections (YSK).

Turkish police in May detained Alparslan Kuytul, leader of the Furkan Foundation, an anti-government religious group. Its members protested the arrest of their founder and the pressure on their activities in various provinces during the year. In many cases police intervened in their demonstrations with tear gas and used excessive force against the protestors.

Here is some of the most important news from 2022 about the ongoing crackdown on the Kurdish political movement and opposition groups:

Turkey moved to strip pro-Kurdish party of funding

Turkey’s chief prosecutor asked the constitutional court to strip the HDP of government funding over its alleged links to an outlawed terrorist organization. The HDP, parliament’s second-largest opposition group, faces the threat of closure ahead of a general election in May. More..

ECtHR said Turkey arrested pro-Kurdish politicians to stifle pluralism, ordered their release

The ECtHR in November ruled that Turkey had violated the rights of 13 former lawmakers from the HDP by putting them in pretrial detention to stifle pluralism and to limit freedom of political debate, ordering the release of two of them who are still in jail.

The ECtHR rendered its judgment for Figen Yüksekdağ and 12 other politicians: İdris Baluken, Besime Konca, Abdullah Zeydan, Nihat Akdoğan, Selma Irmak, Ferhat Encu, Gülser Yıldırım, Nursel Aydoğan, Çağlar Demirel, Ayhan Bilgen, Burcu Çelik and Leyla Birlik. More..

CoE urged Turkey’s top court to quickly conclude examination of Demirtaş’s detention

The Council of Europe (CoE) Committee of Ministers’ Deputies in September called on Turkey’s Constitutional Court to expeditiously examine an application from Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş concerning his ongoing detention in a manner compatible with earlier judgments of the ECtHR. More..

ECtHR ruled Turkey violated MPs’ rights by stripping them of immunity in 2016

The ECtHR ruled that Turkey violated the freedom of expression of 40 former lawmakers from the HDP by lifting their parliamentary immunity. The prosecution of members of parliament had been possible since the CHP and other opposition parties lent support to a 2016 proposal submitted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), on removing the deputies’ immunity from prosecution. The immunity of all deputies who faced prosecution at the time was lifted in May 2016.and by their subsequent trial, ordering the government to pay 5,500 euros to each applicant. More..

Prison sentence, political ban for İstanbul mayor sparked int’l condemnation

An İstanbul court in December sentenced İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu to two years, seven months in prison and barred him from politics for allegedly insulting members of the YSK. The sentence and political ban must be upheld by an appeals court after a petition is filed.

The sentence drew harsh criticism from high-level officials in Europe and the US, including the mayors of major European cities, who expressed solidarity with İmamoğlu. More..

Court released assailant who staged attack at HDP office in İstanbul

An İstanbul court in January ruled to release from detention a man who staged an attack at an HDP building in İstanbul’s Bahçelievler district. The assailant, identified as Muhammed Eren Sütçü, who was carrying a gun and a knife, injured two party employees during the attack. More..

Kurdish MP injured in police intervention in protest in SE Turkey

HDP lawmaker Habip Eksik was injured as a result of police intervention in a demonstration held in the southeastern province of Hakkari in October to protest the 1999 arrest of the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). More..

 

Top court found no rights violation in lengthy pretrial detention of Kurdish politician

Turkey’s Constitutional Court found no rights violation in the five-year pretrial detention of Kurdish politician Figen Yüksekdağ, which it said had actually lasted for only three years, one month, describing the measure as proportionate. Yüksekdağ was arrested along with a number of other Kurdish politicians in November 2016 in a sweeping crackdown on the HDP. More..

Crackdown on anti-government Furkan religious foundation continued

Turkish police in May detained Alparslan Kuytul, leader of the Furkan Foundation, an anti-government religious group, in connection to the abduction of a businessman in the southern province of Adana. More…

An outspoken critic of the policies of President Erdoğan’s government, Kuytul and members of his foundation are facing growing pressure from the government for strongly advocating that religion and politics not mix and criticizing the AKP government for doing just that.

The police in Adana sparked outrage when they employed batons, plastic bullets and pepper spray in what many said was a disproportionate use of force to disperse Furkan Foundation members who wanted to hold a peaceful demonstration in March. More..

However, Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party, praised the excessive force used by the police officers in Adana. More..

Members of the foundation were also beaten and detained by police in Osmaniye province in June. The detainees were resisting the closure of a private religious education center affiliated with their foundation. More..

Jailed Kurdish politician died after 6 years of imprisonment

In August Mehmet Candemir, a former party council member of the Democratic Regions Party (DBP) who had been behind bars on terrorism charges and then conviction for six years, died after being taken to a hospital from a prison in northern Turkey. More..

Turkey freed Kurdish politician with dementia from prison

Kurdish politician Aysel Tuğluk was released from prison in northwest Turkey in October after a medical report stated that her dementia did not allow her to remain behind bars. Tuğluk, 57, was the deputy co-chair of the HDP before her arrest in 2016. She was sentenced in 2018 to 10 years in prison for membership in a “terrorist organization.” More..

 

Turkish parliament stripped Kurdish MP of parliamentary status

The Turkish parliament in December stripped jailed HDP lawmaker Semra Güzel of her parliamentary status due to inadequate attendance at sessions of the legislature. More..

Opposition lawmaker prevented from leaving Turkey due to travel ban

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a lawmaker from the HDP and a prominent defender of human rights, was prevented from leaving Turkey due to a travel ban in place despite his parliamentary immunity. More..

Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals upheld jail for opposition figure

Canan Kaftancıoğlu

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals in May upheld a prison sentence for Canan Kaftancıoğlu, head of the İstanbul branch of the country’s main opposition CHP. In 2019 Kaftancıoğlu, 50, was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison on a range of charges including “disseminating terrorist propaganda” and insulting President Erdoğan. The charges related mostly to tweets Kaftancıoğlu posted between 2012 and 2017. She had been free pending appeal. More..

At least 170 detained as police intervened in events marking 9th anniversary of Gezi protests

Police intervention in a demonstration held in central İstanbul by a group wanting to mark the ninth anniversary of the anti-government Gezi Park protests and commemorate the activists killed in the 2013 events resulted in the detention of at least 170 people. More..

Dismissed academic got 10 years in prison on terrorism charges

A Turkish court handed down a prison sentence of 10 years to academic Nuriye Gülmen, who had been dismissed from her job in the aftermath of a coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, on charges of terrorist organization membership.

She was detained and released in 2016 numerous times for protesting her firing along with dismissed teacher Semih Özakça on Ankara’s Yüksel Street, where they demanded reinstatement to their jobs in front of a human rights monument. The monument became a symbol of resistance and a demand for justice after other purge victims and activists joined them. Turkish police are believed to have used excessive force against the protestors on Yüksel Street. More..

Detention warrants issued for 50 women over alleged ties to PKK

Turkish prosecutors issued detention warrants for 50 women on charges of membership in a terrorist organization as part of an investigation based on witness statements. More..

298 detained during Nevruz celebrations in Diyarbakır

Turkish police detained at least 298 people, including 74 minors, during Nevruz celebrations in March in southeastern Diyarbakır province. Nevruz is celebrated by Kurds as the first day of spring. However, Nevruz celebrations have often been marked by heavy-handed police intervention. More..

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