Erdogan wants to ban the HDP

Why the German government must stand up to repression in Turkey – and what it could do if it were serious


The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey is threatened with being banned. For years they have been persecuted by the Erdogan government. The former joint chairs Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş have been in prison since 2016, along with thousands of others.

In 48 of the 65 municipalities in which the HDP won local elections, elected mayors have been deposed and replaced by representatives of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government. These representatives have destroyed progressive projects which were set up by the HDP – like women’s centres, measures against sexualised violence or local support for Syrian refugees.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found in several cases that journalists and opposition politicians have been unjustly imprisoned in Turkey. The ECHR also called again for the immediate release of Demirtaş in December. The Turkish government ignored the judgement.

New wave of arrests

Despite the repression and hate speeches by government representatives, the government has not been able to weaken the HDP. Recently there was a new wave of arrests. Immunity was lifted for many HDP MPs and the MP Ömer Faruk Gergerlioglu’s mandate was withdrawn. He was accused of calling for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict in a 2016 Tweet.

Immediately afterwards, a procedure was introduced to ban the HDP, saying that the party must be dissolved, party funds confiscated and leading HDP politicians banned from politics for many years. This was an attempt to remove the last non-nationalist opposition in parliament from the political landscape.

The German government is “concerned” and does nothing

The German government reacted to the latest development with “grave concern”. For years this is how they have always reacted to such cases – nonetheless, the EU refugee deal with Turkey was passed, economic relationships have been maintained and extended, further talks have been held with Turkey about its NATO membership, armaments have been delivered.

Although Turkey’s assault and occupation of Syria violates international law, and despite intervening in Libya, in 2019 Turkey received military weapons from Germany worth more than €344 million. Despite the disastrous human rights record for years, and the non-recognition of the ECHR judgements, Turkey is a beneficiary of EU relationships, receives financial help and profits from the Customs Union.

Despite the catastrophic conditions for refugees in camps in Greece and Germany, the EU refugee deal is being maintained.

Absurd arguments against the HDP

With this background, the “grave concern” shows itself to be pure hypocrisy. It is particularly cynical that the Foreign Office demands in its statement that the HDP must clearly distance itself from the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), which is listed in Germany as a terrorist organisation. Here they are using the same argument as Erdogan, who uses every opportunity espouse this terrorism argument.

For example, in 2016, an initiative of academics called for a peaceful solution to the Kurdish conflict. Thereupon many of the academics were sacked. Students lost their job or their postgraduate positions under the accusation of supporting terrorist activities through the appeal for peace.

The journalist Deniz Yücel was in prison for a year for alleged “terrorist propaganda” because he had interviewed a leader of the PKK. The HDP has always stressed that the Kurdish question cannot be solved with violence and has advocated for a peaceful democratic solution. They have always campaigned for the peaceful path while Erdogan has led Turkey into war and dismantled democracy.

Instead of clearly condemning state terrorism against the opposition in Turkey, those who have been affected have been accused of having links with terrorism. This is an absurdity which can hardly be surpassed.

Therefore: a clear position against Erdogan! An immediate halt to all weapon exports to Turkey! An immediate halt to all financial support for Turkey! No new negotiations on the shabby EU-Turkey deal! Solidarity with the HDP!

Julia Wiedemann works in the International Politics department in the national headquarters of Die LINKE. This article originally appeared in German in Links Bewegt – the online magazine of Die LINKE. Reproduced with permission. Translation: Phil Butland