Turkey’s HDP had ‘9,000 members detained, 2500 arrested in 18 months’

Ahmet Yildirim (c) with imprisoned HDP co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, (c) picture alliance/abaca

Turkey’s pro-minority rights Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has had at least 9 thousand of its members detained and 2,500 arrested and imprisoned since a return to clashes 18 months ago, according to a party lawmaker.

Speaking to ANF News Agency, the left-wing party’s group vice-chair and Mus deputy Ahmet Yildirim said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had used the coup attempt last July as a pretext to suppress opposition.

“As a result of the wave of violence and the culture of conflict created by the government in the past 18 months, some 9 thousand of our members have been detained and 2500 of them have been arrested. If that happened to any other party, it would fail to even keep its offices open. The AKP government is displaying spectacular aptitude for profiteering in the aftermath of the coup attempt, aiming to remove all opposition forces. When a regime change, namely the presidential system, was added to this mix in the last 4-5 months, they chose to annihilate all entities they see as obstacles on this path. In this framework, our co-chairs, MPs, co-mayors, and many many friends who worked in the provincial and district branches have been imprisoned.”

Yildirim added that they were not just a political party but a popular movement and for this reason it would be impossible to “annihilate them”.

“We are an institution that never takes a step without the people. We are a tree that takes its strength from its roots, the more you prune us the stronger we get,” the deputy said.

A return to clashes following the derailment of the Turkish-Kurdish solution process in 2015 led to resumption of clashes between Turkish forces and militia allied to the Kurdish PKK.

Many circles have blamed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the escalation in violence after he refused to recognise the 10-point Dolmabahce Agreement between Ankara and the Kurdish party. Other commentators have said victory by the HDP in the June 2015 elections, which left the AKP bereft of a majority, also contributed to the government favouring a return to conflict to shore up nationalist votes.

The PKK’s reluctance to lay down arms and withdraw its militants from Turkey’s borders led to a return to conflict, the government argued.

The PKK has dismissed this claim and accused Turkey of “carrying its war on the Kurds over the border into Syria” during the solution process and unofficially ending it “when Kobane did not fall to Daesh (IS)” in October 2014.

12 HDP lawmakers as well as dozens of co-mayors have been imprisoned pending trial since July’s failed coup attempt. Commentators have also said clashes between Turkish forces and Kurdish militants between July 2015 and July 2016 precipitated the coup attempt.