Opposition owes public self-criticism for backing Syrian incursion: Demirtas

Opposition parties that supported Turkey’s military incursion into Syria need to subject themselves to self-criticism in public, jailed pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)’s former Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtas has said.

Behind bars since his arrest on November 4, 2016, on various terror-related charges, Demirtas answered questions of Yavuz Ozcan from the Yeni Ozgur Politika news portal on the recent developments in Turkey’s politics in a written interview made possible by his lawyers.

“The responsibility of making self-criticism before the people who demand peace lies with the opposition, which has stood behind the war,” Demirtas said, referring to all of the opposition parties in the parliament, except for HDP, that supported Turkey’s offensive in Syria.

The military operation in northeastern Syria was launched on October 9, with a stated aim by Turkey to clear the border area off the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to form a “safe zone” to resettle refugees.

Ankara deems YPG a terrorist organization due to its links to the Kurdish separatists known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group that has waged an insurgency in Kurdish-dominated southeastern Turkey for decades.

The Turkish Army halted its incursion into northern Syria last week, following a deal, between Ankara and Moscow, promising that Kurdish fighters would retreat from the Turkish-Syrian border.

“If I were in their shoes, I would not underestimate the Kurds. From this very day on, I would take convincing steps in practice to make amends. Otherwise, it can be too late tomorrow,” Demirtas warned the opposition parties.

The main opposition secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) expressed reluctant support for Turkey’s operation in Syria, while the nationalist opposition Good Party (IP) has fully supported it.

Demirtas also said Kurds will not recognize those who viewed them as worthy of only war and death.

He said Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has not gained what it hoped through the military campaign targeting the Kurdish militia in Syria.

“The AKP government knows it very well that it cannot stay in power even for a month without a policy of war. … However, AKP is experiencing deep loneliness and collapse both at home and in the world. It cannot explain this unjust war to anyone. … The war has not saved the AKP,” he said.

Demirtas also stated that it is impossible to cover any distance towards the democratization of Turkey without solving the country’s Kurdish problem.

“Solving problems regarding labor, ecology, women’s freedom, social life, and the economy is only possible through putting radical and democratic programs into practice. The biggest obstacle to this is the government’s authoritarian, denialist and fascist approach to the Kurdish issue,” he elaborated.

Regarding the Turkish government’s intensifying crackdown on the Kurdish political movement, the politician said that they can neither get away with what they have done nor cause HDP to fall back.

“We have no other option than to resist and it cannot be done, unfortunately, without paying the price for it. There is no need for hopelessness, though. Those who must feel depressed and hopeless are the ones in [Turkey’s] exhausted fascist bloc,” he outlined.

Demirtas also held forth that the reason behind the “violent attacks and unlawful restrictions” that HDP officials face is the ruling AKP government’s fear of the pro-Kurdish party’s potential to expand.

The crackdown by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP government on the Kurdish political movement has gained momentum after peace talks between Ankara and the outlawed PKK broke down in 2015.

Due to terror charges that include having suspected links to the PKK, more than a dozen mayors from the pro-Kurdish HDP have been dismissed from their offices and replaced with stated-appointed officials in the last seven months.

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