Two pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) marches to protest arrests of HDP MPs and the ousting of elected HDP mayors entered its fourth day on Thursday.
One of the marches started in Turkey’s westernmost city of Edirne while the other started in the easternmost city of Hakkari with both marches expected to converge on Ankara.
Dubbed the “Democracy March,” the HDP’s march commenced on Monday as part of a series of planned demonstrations throughout summer to protest “the judiciary’s instrumentalization by the governing AKP to quash dissent.”
#Buldan: We are the voice of the persecuted millions, we do not speak on behalf of a single community. HDP will not compromise or bow down in this long march. Our march aims to bring together the rivers of Hakkari and Edirne, Great Zap and Meriç. #EdirnedenHakkariyeHepBirlikte pic.twitter.com/es0JgkaZD1
— HDP English (@HDPenglish) June 15, 2020
Idil Ugurlu, the co-chair of the rights advocacy group Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK), gave a speech on Wednesday in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district, where the march from Erdine, led by HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan, had arrived on Thursday.
“The youth and women are on the streets. This march is the march of Selahattin Demirtas, Osman Kavala, and Figen Yuksekdag. This march is for Enis Berberoglu. It is for Leyla Guven,” Ugurlu said, referring to the imprisoned co-chairs of HDP, the imprisoned rights activist businessman Kavala, and other imprisoned opposition MPs.
“This march is the freedom of women’s will. This march is the march of the oppressed. You cannot silence millions of youth and women. We are the millions, the voice of the millions,” Ugurlu carried on with saying.
The eastern march, led by HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar had made it to the southeastern city of Diyarbakir.
Due to the extraordinary circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic measures, the party decided to cover distances with cars while giving speeches in cities along the way.
“HDP marches to unite and enhance the social dissent,” HDP spokesman Saruhan Oluc said on Wednesday.
“To march, to engage in politics is our constitutional right. Governors of 16 provinces issued rulings to hinder our march. They are committing crimes against the constitution.”
The Hakkari track of our Democracy March reached Amed/Diyarbakır yesterday. Amed welcomed our delegation with enthusiasm. As we always say, Turkey's democratic future will be determined by those who resist oppression. Democracy all together! #HepBirlikteDemokrasiye pic.twitter.com/pypVcPUo4y
— HDP English (@HDPenglish) June 18, 2020
The two marches are expected to link up in the capital Ankara on Saturday where they are expected to hold a rally.
The Edirne branch of our Democracy March arrived in Istanbul. The public meeting we held yesterday in Kadıköy once again proved that neither Kurdish people nor the democracy forces of Turkey will submit to unlawfulness & oppression. Democracy all together #HepBirlikteDemokrasiye pic.twitter.com/I5rtvgx200
— HDP English (@HDPenglish) June 18, 2020
On June 4, Turkey’s parliament stripped Leyla Guven, Musa Farisogullari from HDP, and Enis Berberoglu from the main opposition party of their parliamentary status after convictions against them became final, drawing sharp criticism from their parties.
The decisions were announced in parliament after appeals courts upheld Berberoglu’s prison sentence for disclosing government secrets and the sentences of Guven and Farisogullari for being members of a terrorist organization.
HDP deputy Oluc condemned the decision saying that the ruling is to “trample the will of the voters and the Kurdish people.”
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been targeting Kurdish politicians, parties, and organizations as part of its mass crackdown on dissidents for years.
Selahattin Demirtas, HDP’s former co-chair, has been in prison since he was jailed in 2016 on several offenses that include terror-related charges.
He faces 142 years in prison if found guilty in the main case against him.
Ankara accuses the HDP, the third-largest party in the parliament, of having ties to the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long armed struggle against it.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the former pro-Kurdish leader’s conviction for a speech he gave in 2005 was a violation of the politician’s right to free speech.
However, Turkish courts have not implemented the ECtHR decision and continue to keep Demirtas in prison.
An EU statement said government-appointed trustees had taken over 45 of 65 pro-Kurdish mayors’ positions.
“The total number of dismissed mayors in the south-east of Turkey since August 2019 reached 45. In addition, hundreds of local politicians and elected officeholders thousands of members of the HDP have been detained on terrorism-related charges since the local elections in March 2019,” said Peter Stano, the Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy at the EU.
The EU statement named the operations against the Kurdish politicians “politically motivated” and stated the union’s “deep concern.”