Using genocidal language, Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and a key ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, defined Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as “poisonous vermin” on Wednesday and called for its closure on ground of separatism.
“The fight with poisonous vermin is a great service to national dignity. The fight against separatism is honorable support for our independence,” he said in a tweet.
Attacking the HDP for not signing a cross-party parliamentary statement condemning US sanctions on Turkey, Bahçeli said: “The HDP must be closed and not reopened. No tolerance should be shown to any party organization that takes as its reference ethnic separatism and terrorism.”
Bahçeli’s words came only a few days after his deputy, Semih Yalçın, called the HDP a terrorist organization and “political vermin that needs to be exterminated” in a tweet.
Bahçeli and Erdoğan accuse the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed secessionist group considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Turkey and the European Union. PKK militants have fought against the state in mainly Kurdish southeastern Turkey since 1984 in a conflict that has killed more than 40,000 people. The HDP, parliament’s third largest party, denies links to terrorism.
The HDP’s co-chairman, Mithat Sancar, condemned Bahçeli’s words on Thursday as a bid to silence 6 million voters. “In the past, six of our parties were closed down, and what happened? If our party is closed, we will come back stronger,” Sancar said.
Turkish courts have banned pro-Kurdish parties in the past on charges of militant ties, drawing criticism from Turkey’s Western allies. But moves supported by Erdoğan’s AKP have since made closing parties down more difficult.
Commenting on Yalçın’s tweets, Sancar said his words were a “well-known call for genocide” and that they will take the issue court.
According to Reuters, Bahçeli, whose party is the fourth largest in parliament and whose comments in the past have appeared to influence government policy, suggested a change in the constitution, political parties law or the penal code if necessary.
The HDP, founded in 2012, won 11.7 percent of the vote in the 2018 parliamentary elections. It has been targeted by authorities in a crackdown in recent years under which thousands of party officials and members have been arrested and dozens of its mayors and lawmakers unseated.