Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has elected Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli as its new co-chairpersons during a the 3rd party congress in Ankara on Sunday.
According to the report 32,000 people attended the congress, although television stations instead chose to air a speech given by Devlet Bahçeli, an ultra-nationalist ally of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and leader of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), at a party meeting that took place at the same time on Sunday.
The congress hall has been completely filled and in front of the building were still thousands of people chanting slogans to praise outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan and the Kurdish armed groups resistance in Afrin province of northern Syria. Turkish police have reportedly threatened to intervene if “illegal” slogans continue to be chanted. The police have also intimidated journalists who were not allowed to take their laptops into the hall.
Numerous overseas observers also attended in the congress, including MEPs Gabi Zimmer and Martina Michels, and other politicians from Ireland, the Basque Country, Lebanon, France, Norway, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Palestine and Germany.
“We are taking an open stance for peace in the homeland and abroad. We defend peace,” Buldan said on Sunday in her speech as a candidate.
“We will not be a part or accomplice of this dark and lawless period in Turkey’s history,” Buldan stated and added that “No matter how much they try to isolate us, no matter how much they try to discourage us by force and oppressive policies, we will rely on the spectacular strength of our rights and legitimacy that shines like the sun.”
“The year 2018 will be a year when the HDP will contribute to the struggle of peace and democracy,” Temelli said.
Pervin Buldan has been a deputy since 2007 and serves as a deputy parliamentary speaker at Turkish Parliament. She was a key figure in the peace process between Turkish government and the PKK in 2009 and 2015, as a part of the delegation that carried out meetings with Öcalan, who is serving a life sentence in the İmralı island prison. She is also known as the wife of Kurdish businessman Savaş Buldan, who was the victim of an mysterious murder in 1994.
Sezai Temelli, an academic dismissed from his post at İstanbul University with a state of emergency decree, has been the party’s deputy leader since 2013. Before joining the HDP in 2009, he was a member of the socialist Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP). He is also known to be defending constitutional change under the “Not enough, but yes” movement in 2010 that paved the way for the president to be elected by the public.
Even though Buldan and Temelli’s names have been put forward as sole co-leader nominees by the party’s “negotiation commission,” more than 70 signatures have been collected to present the party’s jailed co-leader Demirtaş as a candidate.
Turkey has stepped up its crackdown on Kurdish politicians since 2016. 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. Ten HDP deputies including former Co-chairpersons Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ are still in prison