Pro-Kurdish opposition considers withdrawal from parliament over its mayors’ dismissal

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition party will look at withdrawing its lawmakers from the Turkish parliament in a protest of the continuing crackdown by the ruling government which has lately replaced 24 of the party’s 58 elected mayors with appointed public officials since the local elections in March, the party’s deputy chairman said on Monday.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) will discuss ways to react against the escalating pressure by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in a meeting attended by its lawmakers, mayors and local officials on Wednesday in Ankara.

“We will continue our struggle against the removal of our mayors in every platform. One of the questions we will answer is whether to withdraw our lawmakers from the parliament,” Saruhan Oluc told reporters at parliament.

The HDP’s potential path of action was also revealed by BBC Turkish on Saturday when the latest four district mayors, out of 24, have been ousted by the AKP over alleged terror links.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP government accuse the HDP of having ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has been fighting for self-rule in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast region for more than three decades. The HDP denies such links.

Besides thousands of HDP members, nearly a dozen of HDP lawmakers, including former HDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, are still behind bars pending trial for terror-related offenses.

A tweet, posted by Demirtas’ lawyer Mahsuni Karaman on Wednesday, had resulted in discussions on social media over collective resignations of HDP lawmakers, mayors, and other officials.

However later, Karaman said his comment on resignations was not a call for a collective move and was just suggestion of an option.

On Friday, the HDP spokesperson Gunay Kubilay echoed the lawyer, saying that the party was not discussing only collective resignation which was suggested by some pro-Kurdish intellectuals as an option.

“It is one of the ways of struggle. The HDP is not a party that would turn a deaf ear to such proposals by ignoring them due to its pluralist structure and radical democracy approach,” Kubilay said.

The HDP membership does not lean towards the withdrawal as surveys showed that only 10 percent of HDP supporters back such an option, BBC Turkish reported.

In the meantime, a great majority of the party followers, 60 percent, also find the HDP’s stance ineffective and unsatisfactory against the removal of mayors, according to a report by the pro-Kurdish Mezopotamya news agency (MA).

“There are many suggestions and opinions including withdrawal and partial withdrawal. A study that will fulfill everybody’s expectations both strategically and politically and that will shape the future period has been ongoing,” the HDP co-chair Sezai Temelli told BBC Turkish on Saturday.

The removal of four mayors came after a recent Turkish military incursion into northern Syria in October against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara similarly accuses of ties to the PKK. The pro-Kurdish party was the only opposing party in the parliament against the operation.

From “peace talks” to “crackdown”

In October 2014, towards the end of a two-year-long ceasefire dubbed “solution process” between the Turkish state and the PKK, the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group
besieged the northern Syrian Kurdish-majority city of Kobani.

In addition to AKP’s stance regarding ISIS, Erdogan’s Kobani comments resulted in demonstrations in Turkey’s southeast which later turned violent. The
violence claimed the lives of 46 while 682 others were wounded. Erdogan pinned the blame of the death toll on Demirtas’ discourse.

Similarly, Demirtas adopted a harsh criticism targeting Erdogan’s increasing authoritarian drive during the following general election season in 2015.

In the June 2015 elections, the ruling AKP lost its parliamentary majority while the HDP managed to pass the 10 percent electoral threshold for the first time in its history and gained representation in the parliament.

During the coalition talks led by the AKP, two police officers were killed in their house in the southeastern city of Sanliurfa’s Ceylanpinar district. The ceasefire came to an end subsequently as the AKP blamed the PKK for the attack.

Ankara launched a months-long military campaign against the PKK which gained ground in the Kurdish-majority cities during the peace talks.

Amid increasing nationalist atmosphere during the campaign, the coalition negotiations failed and general elections were held again in November. The AKP
reclaimed its parliamentary majority, with the HDP losing more than 20% of its votes.

The immunities of 55 HDP lawmakers were lifted by the parliament in May 2016.

Later, the July 2016 coup attempt, which claimed the lives of 250 people, gave the AKP government the pretext to impose more crackdown on the HDP.

In the aftermath of the coup, fourteen HDP lawmakers, including the co-leaders, were detained and 90 mayors were removed from their posts.

Most of the HDP mayors won their posts back in the March polls this year after which the AKP government has once again sacked mayors.

Since then, a number of protests were staged against the dismissal of the Kurdish mayors across Turkey, with almost all of them facing harsh police intervention.

Now, the pro-Kurdish party is in search of new tactics against the state crackdown.

Jailed Demirtas says HDP will continue democracy struggle with Turkey’s opposition

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