Members of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) started making their way to the capital, Ankara, yesterday from the southeastern province of Hakkari and the northwestern province of Edirne to protest a government crackdown on the party.
The demonstrations come after two HDP legislators, Leyla Güven and Musa Farisoğulları, were stripped of their parliamentary seats and immunity earlier this month following their conviction on terror charges. Last month, authorities also detained four elected HDP mayors and replaced them with government-appointed trustees. Since local elections in March 2019, some 45 other mayors have been removed from office, with 21 of them imprisoned on terrorism-related charges. Several other HDP lawmakers have also been jailed, including Selahattin Demirtaş, the HDP’s charismatic former leader.
The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly accused the HDP of ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought against the state in the largely Kurdish Southeast since 1984 and is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The HDP denies such links.
On Monday police dispersed a group of HDP officials and supporters who had gathered on the outskirts of Istanbul to travel to Edirne and detained some of them. In response HDP Co-chair Pervin Buldan said: “These impediments, these bans, will never deter us. They will never prevent our struggle for peace, democracy, justice and freedom.”
The police also blocked the group in Edirne from starting their protest outside the prison where Demirtaş is incarcerated.
The police had a heavy presence in Hakkari, the second departure point of the protest. Speaking in Hakkari, the other co-chair of the HDP, Mithat Sancar, said: “Our march is a protest of the coup against democracy. We are walking for the unlawfully imprisoned former co-chairs of the HDP, Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, [former HDP deputies] Abdullah Zeydan and Gültan Kışanak and all imprisoned journalists and activists.”
The two groups are scheduled to reach Ankara on Saturday, where they plan to hold a protest at a park near parliament.