In Turkey / Türkiye

HDP to hold rallies, workshops for autonomy in face of threats of removal of Parliamentary immunity

Today’s Zaman, Monday, Jan 4, 2016

Recent remarks by the Turkish president threatened the Parliamentary immunity of the two co-chairs of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) over their remarks in favour of Kurdish autonomy. The HDP is preparing to organize rallies and workshops to tell people autonomy will serve to democratize the country.

Selahattin Demirtas (R) and Figen Yuksekdag, co-leaders of the People's Democratic Party-HDP

Selahattin Demirtas (R) and Figen Yuksekdag, co-leaders of the People’s Democratic Party-HDP

ANKARA—The HDP will hold rallies under the banner “Self-rule and democratic Turkey,” the Hürriyet daily’s news portal quoted HDP spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen as saying on Monday. The party will reportedly hold meetings, worships and conferences in Turkey’s western provinces to inform people about self-rule and autonomy.

Prosecutors in Ankara and the southeastern province of Diyarbakır last week launched investigations into HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş over his remarks in support of self-rule for the predominantly Kurdish Southeast and for supporting terrorism.

The other HDP co-chair, Figen Yüksekdağ, as well as some other HDP figures are also facing investigations for their remarks calling for Kurdish autonomy during a recent Democratic Society Congress (DTK) congress.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggested last week that the HDP co-chairs should be stripped of their parliamentary immunity, arguing their statements calling for autonomy in the Southeast are a “constitutional crime.”

“The statements of the two co-chairs are definitely a constitutional crime,” the president said in remarks published on Saturday, arguing that lifting their immunity “would positively affect the atmosphere” in the country regarding the fight against terrorism.

Government spokesperson Numan Kurtulmuş, however; spoke against the possibility of lifting the immunities of HDP deputies at a press conference he held following a Cabinet meeting on Monday.

Stating that neither party closures nor lifting immunities of deputies yielded any positive result in the Turkish politics in the past, Kurtulmuş called on the HDP to adopt a discourse and methods that are in line with democracy.

Demirtaş is accused by the Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor’s Office of committing a crime against the constitutional order for saying Kurds could have federal states, autonomous regions or even independent states in the future, during the DTK congress held on Dec. 26-27.

In another investigation by the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office, Demirtaş is accused of provoking hatred and enmity among people and for praising crime and criminals in his remarks during the Kobani protests last year.

Currently, fighting has been ongoing for around three weeks in the Cizre, Silopi and Sur districts in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast between the security forces and the PKK.

The DTK declaration for Kurdish autonomy came at a time when clashes have been ongoing for several weeks between the security forces and members of the terrorist [sic] Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in towns in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast.

The Diyarbakır Chief Prosecutor’s Office has also launched investigations into HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ for her remarks about autonomy and supporting the PKK’s fight in towns.

Five other Kurdish figures are also facing investigations for their remarks at the congress supporting Kurdish autonomy. HDP deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder, DTK co-chairs Hatip Dicle and Selma Irmak, Democratic Regions Party (DBP) co-chair Kamuran Yüksek and former HDP deputy Sebahat Tuncel are the five individuals facing the investigation.

‘Removing them from Parliament will lead to disintegration’

Dicle of the DTK on Monday warned that stripping the HDP deputies of parliamentary immunity would have dire consequences, according to the Doğan news agency.

Removing from Parliament the political representatives of the Kurdish people will lead to the disintegration of the country rather than unity, Dicle argued in a press meeting in Diyarbakır. Recalling that a similar step taken by the Turkish government back in 1994 against some Kurdish deputies including himself did not help to settle the problem, he said, “It appears today’s politicians have not drawn any lessons from the situation then.”

Closing democratic channels for Kurds will mean encouraging violence, Dicle warned.

The date of the HDP rallies was to be determined at Monday’s HDP Central Executive Board meeting.

The HDP argues that the Kurdish demand for autonomy has to do with Turkey’s democratization.

PKK terrorists [sic] have dug trenches and built makeshift barricades with booby-trapped explosives in districts such as Cizre, Silopi and Sur in the predominantly Kurdish Southeast as part of an effort for self-rule.

Özgür Özel, the parliamentary group deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has said his party is against the removal of the parliamentary immunity of HDP deputies. In remarks to reporters on Monday in Parliament, Özel said such a step would not help resolve the country’s Kurdish issue, and he called on the HDP to distance itself from the PKK.

An HDP that criticizes the PKK and the violence, and which seeks to resolve the issue in Parliament is needed, Özel added.

Several neighborhoods of towns where clashes are ongoing have been under curfew during this period. Thousands of members of the security forces supported by tanks and armored vehicles are involved in the fighting.

A total of around 280 PKK terrorists [sic] were, as of Sunday, “rendered ineffective” in the fighting in the towns under curfew, according to statements by the Turkish General Staff.

The term “rendered ineffective” refers to both those killed and wounded, but it is widely assumed those who are killed make up the large majority of the General Staff figure.

Önder claims HDP deputies to be arrested

HDP deputy Sırrı Süreyya Önder claimed that the parliamentary immunity of the deputies facing investigation would be stripped and that they would be arrested. “It looks so,” he told the T24 news portal in an interview published late on Sunday.

Arguing that such a move would not help to the resolution of the Kurdish problem in Turkey the least bit, Önder challengingly added that no HDP deputy is afraid of being sent to jail. According to Önder, a call by the HDP for the trenches in towns to be filled in would go unheeded by the PKK, unless Öcalan, the PKK’s jailed leader, is allowed have HDP deputies as visitors, as was the case during the settlement process. Öcalan has not been allowed to have any visitors since April, Önder said.

A settlement process launched by the government to resolve the country’s Kurdish issue was suspended in March. The de facto cease-fire that had been in place since the beginning of the process in late 2012 ended in July, and clashes between security forces and the PKK were reignited.

Read also:
HDP leader Demirtas challenges threats to lift his Parliamentary immunity, Hurriyet Daily News, Jan 5, 2016

Human Rights Association says 25 women have been killed in gov’t military operations in eastern Turkey, Today’s Zaman, Jan 5, 2016

Kurdish congress meets in eastern Turkey, issues declaration of self rule, Dec 27, 2015

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