As we enter into the referendum process, the pressures of the government on democratic opposition, the HDP and Kurdish local governments in particular, do intensify. While our co-chairs and 9 deputies have been in prison since 4 November 2016, many of our deputies were taken to the court by police force and then released over the last week. It should be noted that these detentions came right after the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe refused to have an urgent debate on democratic institutions in Turkey on January 23, 2017.
On January 25, Mr Ahmet Yildirim (deputy chair of HDP parliamentary group), Mr Osman Baydemir (MP for Urfa), Mr Imam Taşçıer (MP for Diyarbakir), and Mr Mehmet Emin Adıyaman (MP for Iğdır) were detained and taken to the court by police force. All were released after their testimonies; their cases will continue without arrest. The court issued a travel ban for Mr Adiyaman; he cannot travel abroad now. A similar ban had previously been issued for Mr Taşçıer.
On January 27, the 2nd Heavy Penal Court in Van issued arrest warrants for Mr Lezgin Botan and Mr Adem Geveri, both MPs for Van. The court also issued a travel ban so that they could not travel abroad. At night on the same day, Ms Hüda Kaya (MP for Istanbul) and Ms Meral Danış Beştaş (MP for Adana) were detained. Ms Kaya was detained in Afyon and transferred to Diyarbakir. She said that the police were very disrespectful and rude, and handcuffed her. The court later released both Ms Kaya and Ms Bestas, but they will be under “judicial control” and subjected to a ban on travel abroad.
On January 28, Mr Altan Tan (MP for Diyarbakir) was detained in Diyarbakır. On January 29, Mr Ayhan Bilgen (spokesperson of HDP and MP for Kars) was detained in Ankara and transferred to Diyarbakır. Mr Tan and Mr Bilgen were released with the condition of judicial control. The court issued a ban for Mr Bilgen; he cannot travel abroad now.
Bans on travel abroad have turned into a routine practice, preventing our MPs from fulfilling their parliamentary mandates not only because there are hundreds of thousands of HDP voters residing in other countries but also our deputies regularly join conferences, panels, workshops and activities of international organizations as part of their mandate. Currently, ten HDP MPs cannot travel abroad, namely: Ayhan Bilgen, Meral Danış Beştaş, Hüda Kaya, Leyla Birlik, Ziya Pir, Imam Taşçıer, Mehmet Emin Adıyaman, Sirri Sureyya Onder, Lezgin Botan, and Adem Geveri.
Beside these unlawful practices against our deputies, the AKP government’s crackdown on local democracy is also continuing full force. Most recently, on January 27, the Ministry of Interior appointed the “trustee mayor” of Diyarbakir (Mr Cumali Atilla) as a “trustee” to administer the Union of Southeastern Anatolia Region Municipalities (GABB). Trustees were already appointed to run 64 municipalities in Kurdish towns and cities, which were all members of the GABB. The number of Kurdish co-mayors in prison has exceeded 80, and it seems that there will be more trustee-appointments and arrests in the months to come.
Aggravating pressures on HDP and Kurdish local governments are to pave the way for the “Turkish-type presidential system.” The Erdoğan-AKP government will unlawfully use every means at its disposal to establish the presidential system, which means that the government’s politics of terror and intimidation against each and every sector of the democratic opposition will further intensify in the coming two months. The aim is surely to prevent the opposition from carrying out an effective campaign against the presidential system.
Every passing day it becomes clearer that our co-chairs, deputies and mayors are in prison not because they had committed some crime in the past, but because the HDP did stop Erdoğan’s ambitious presidential system in June and November elections in 2015 and can stop him again in the referendum scheduled for April 2017.
Despite these most unfavorable circumstances, we are committed to preventing President Erdoğan from destroying the already weak democratic institutions in Turkey, establishing a dictatorial rule, and re-shaping Turkish society and political system in his own image.
Deputy Co-chair of HDP Responsible for Foreign Affairs
Member of Parliament
30 January 2017