Thousands gather in Diyarbakır for pro-Kurdish HDP’s ‘Conscience, Justice and Democracy’ meeting

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Thousands of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) supporters have gathered for “Conscience, Justice and Democracy” meeting in Station Square of Diyarbakır province on Sunday. The meeting was organized by the HDP to raise awareness about its imprisoned deputies including the HDP’s co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and former co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ.

Turkish government arrested Demirtas, the co-chairperson of the HDP, and the party’s former co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ in November 2016 as the Erdoğan regime has accused them of ‘terror-related’ crimes. Charges prosecutors brought against the two politicians throughout numerous trials have ranged from insulting Erdoğan, collaborating with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), to working to divide the Turkish state with their speeches and political rallies. Both face more than a combined 150 years of imprisonment from their numerous trials.

It was reported that despite the blockades by police, thousands of HPD supporters filled the square and chanted the slogans of “down with fascism!”

In the beginning of the meeting, the crowd observed one-minute silence to commemorate the victims of the bombing attack in 2015 on the same spot. HDP’s provincial co-chair, Gülsen Özer gave a speech during the meeting and said that “We are crying out loud our demands for freedom, peace and justice. You can’t silence us. (…) We will bring peace and freedom to this country. You can’t stay in front of that.”

HDP’s Diyarbakir co-chair Cabbar Laygara also made a speech at the meeting and said that “The torch of resistance against fascism was lit here in Diyarbakır. HDP is the only party which will bring fascism into account. HDP is the strongest barricade against fascism. (..) We will not bow.”

The HDP’s imprisoned former co-chair Yüksekdağ has also sent a written message to the meeting. His message was read by HDP’s Diyarbakır deputy Sibel Yiğitalp. Yüksedağ has stated in her message that “The antidote of fascism is courage (…) On behalf of all imprisoned elected representatives, I salute all women, youth and our people who hold their head high and resist despite all the pain and atrocities.” Yüksekdağ has also condemned the attack against the funeral of Hatun Tuğluk, mother of pro-Kurdish politician Aysel Tuğluk and called everyone to raise the struggle against a regime which is afraid of a dead.

The body of Hatun Tuğluk, who passed away on Tuesday, was taken to İncek Cemetery in Ankara’s Batıkent district on Wednesday but was removed from the grave after an attack by an ultranationalist group during the funeral in Ankara. The HDP’s Aysel Tuğluk attended the funeral with special permission from Kandıra Prison in Kocaeli province, where she is incarcerated. Some 50 ultranationalists who had gathered in the cemetery attacked the funeral, saying: “We have martyrs in this cemetery. We will not allow terrorists to be buried here.” Following the attack, the body of Hatun Tuğluk was removed from the grave and later buried in Tunceli province.

HPD co-chair Serpil Kemalbay has also given a speech and undelined the need for peace in Turkey. Kemalbay said “We struggled at the time of September 12, 1980 coup, we struggled in 90s and we are struggling now. Today we are closer to victory. To build a new life, to break the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan, for a democratic solution we need to raise our struggle.”

Kemalbay called Turkish government to lift the isolation on Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed PKK and said that its not possible to erase him from people’s hearts. She also called all “democratic powers” to stand with HDP against the one-man regime in Turkey.

There are currently 10 HDP deputies behind bars in Turkey after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government stepped up a crackdown on Kurdish politicians last fall. Trustees have been appointed to dozens of municipalities in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast, while hundreds of local Kurdish politicians have been arrested on terror charges.

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