Jailed Kurdish leader Demirtaş granted 2021 Human Rights Award by German city

A city in Germany has announced that it will grant its 2021 Human Rights Award to Selahattin Demirtaş, an opposition Kurdish politician who has been behind bars on politically motivated charges in Turkey since November 2016, Turkish Minute reported.

The city council of Weimar announced in a statement on Thursday that it had accepted a proposal from the selection committee to grant the award to the 48-year-old politician who they said is committed to a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question, freedom of belief and equal rights for people in Turkey.

Demirtaş, who was the co-chairperson of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) when he was arrested in November 2016, has been behind bars since then despite a decision from the ECtHR in November 2018 that ruled Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention was a political act and ordered his release.

He was an outspoken critic of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, before he was jailed. He ran in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018 as a rival to Erdoğan. Demirtaş conducted his election campaign from jail for the 2018 election.

In the statement Demirtaş, who is the former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was described as “one of the most important opposition politicians in Turkey’s recent history.”

The statement said Demirtaş defends a “peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, democratization, freedom of belief of Christian, Alevi and Yazidi faith groups” and “equality of rights of Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian and Greek people in Turkey in terms of language, politics and culture.”

The award, which carries with it 5000 euros, will be given at a ceremony in Weimar on Dec. 10. It is not yet clear who will accept the award on behalf of the jailed politician.

Meanwhile, the Göttingen-based Society for Threatened Peoples (STP-GfbV), an international NGO and human rights organization aiming to create awareness of and protect minority peoples around the world who are threatened by oppressive governments, welcomed the Weimar city council decision to grant its human rights award to Demirtaş.

“This award is a clear sign to the German Federal Government to rethink its current Turkey policy — because of human rights violations in Turkey itself and also because of the human rights violations for which Turkey is responsible in countries like Syria and Libya,” STP Middle East expert Dr. Kamal Sido said in Göttingen on Thursday.

“The federal government should take a sharper tone against the [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan regime and demand the immediate release of Demirtaş because all people in Turkey deserve a life of freedom and democracy,” he added.

The Weimar Human Rights Award has been given since 1995 to people, groups or organizations who are particularly committed to protecting and strengthening fundamental rights. Another Kurdish politician in Turkey, HDP lawmaker Meral Danış Bektaş, was also granted the award in 1998.

Demirtaş has been behind bars for five years on terrorism charges despite a decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that found Turkey guilty of violating his rights.

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