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People's Democratic Party (HDP)

A top Turkish prosecutor filed a case with the constitutional court 17 March 2021 demanding the closure of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) party in the culmination of a years-long clampdown on Parliament’s third-largest party. The move came as Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, a prominent HDP legislator, was convicted over a 2016 social media post the courts deemed “terrorist propaganda”. The HDP said Gergerlioglu was punished for sharing on Twitter the link to a news story that included comments from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has waged a decades-long armed uprising in Turkey.

Bekir Sahin, chief public prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals, accused HDP leaders and members of “acting in a way that flouts the democratic and universal rules of law, colluding with the terrorist PKK and affiliated groups, and aiming to destroy and eliminate the indivisible integrity of the state”. The HDP, which had 55 seats in the 600-member parliament, denies any links to the Kurdish fighters.

Several of HDP’s predecessor parties were closed down over the decades for alleged links to Kurdish fighters but were soon re-established under different names. Pressure on the HDP has grown since Turkey said 13 captives – including Turkish military and police personnel – were killed by PKK fighters in Iraq during a failed Turkish military operation to rescue them in February 2021.

Kurds make up 15 percent of Turkey's population. The PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and Europe. Since 1984, at least 40,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced in the conflict. Sister party of the recently renamed Democratic Regions Party (DBP), which dominates much of the mainly Kurdish southeast, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) was formed in late 2013 to contest mayoral elections elsewhere in Turkey, where Kurds are in a minority.

The HDP emerged as a voice of hope for marginalized Kurds and left-wing voters when it received 6 million votes, or 13.1 percent, in the June 2015 parliamentary elections. The AKP's biggest setback came with the rise of the main pro-Kurdish party, HDP, which entered parliament for the first time, and made up the second largest opposition in parliament. The party's share in the elections that followed on 01 November 2015 dropped to 10.75 percent, however, and its positive image suffered during a year of clashes between the PKK and Turkey's military. The Turkish government vowed to root out every last "terrorist" and accuses the HDP of being a legal front for the outlawed PKK. Even though HDP did not have trouble preserving its constituency, the party is scarcely heard from within Turkey anymore.

In December 2015 Moscow's overtures to the Kurds further strained relations with Turkey and were seen as a slap at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Russia's outreach came as Kurdish politicians accuse Davutoglu's AK Party government of using indiscriminate force, including tanks and helicopters, in security operations to dislodge Kurdish militants from several towns in the country's southeast.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he did not invite the HDP to participate in his "democracy" rally because "I do not make distinctions between PKK and FETO" - an acronym for "Fethullah Terrorist Organization," a reference to the US-based cleric whom the government has accused of planning the coup. "I do not invite people who are in cooperation with those types of organizations," Erdogan said. "If I do, I cannot explain it to the martyrs, veterans."

After the coup attempt on 15 July 2016, Turkey's entrenched political polarization seemed to have given way to dialogue. And yet participating in the conversation got increasingly harder for the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), which was not included in talks with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and National Movement Party (MHP). After not having been invited to the "Democracy and Martyrs' Rally" in Istanbul's Yenikapi district on 07 August 2016, HDP was also been left out of the other major parties' negotiations toward a new constitution.

Twelve parliamentarians from the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) were detained on 04 November 2016 for not testifying in court on terrorism-related charges, including co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag who were taken into custody from their homes. Turkish prosecutors accused the pair of spreading "terrorist propaganda," among other charges. The arrests drew swift condemnation from the European Union as Turkey has detained or suspended more than 110,000 officials and is fighting a spiraling Kurdish militant insurgency in the southeast.

The HDP, which represents Turkey's largest Kurdish minority in parliament, declared the detentions the end of democracy. "The goal of these measures is to shut down the third-largest party in parliament. This is a dark day not only for our party but for all of Turkey and the region as it means the end of democracy in Turkey," the HDP said, vowing not to surrender to these "dictatorial policies". The EU is engaged in delicate negotiations with Ankara. Since an agreement in March, Turkey helped to all but end a flow of refugees and migrants to the EU via Greece after a million people arrived last year. But the agreement also curtailed the amount of criticism and pressure Brussels can levy at Ankara in fear that the deal could collapse.

The People's Democratic Party (HDP) said 06 November 2016 it would boycott parliament after its senior members were arrested. The HDP said on Sunday it was "halting its legislative efforts" after its leaders and other lawmakers were detained and said it would no longer take part in general assembly sittings. "After discussions with our parliamentary group and our central executive board, we have decided to halt our legislative efforts in light of everything that has happened," party spokesman Ayhan Bilgen said in a statement read out in front of its offices in Diyarbakir, the de facto capital of Turkey's predominately Kurdish southeast.

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Page last modified: 23-03-2021 18:49:06 ZULU