If you are a Kurdish politician in Turkey, there is a good chance that you will either be sent to prison or be forced into exile, or both. This truth was evident at the demonstration outside the Council of Europe on Monday, where over a dozen exiled MPs and mayors from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lined up behind a banner calling on the Council of Europe to sanction Turkey for repeatedly ignoring the demands of the Council’s institutions to comply with its rules on human rights, democracy and the rule of law. (Sanctions in this case means restricting Turkey’s role in the Council, such as by denying them voting rights.)
Monday’s demonstration is part of a four-day sit-in outside the Council to highlight the continued mistreatment of Abdullah Öcalan, especially the denial of his ‘right to hope’ by a life sentence without parole. The sit-in is timed to coincide with the anniversary of Öcalan’s expulsion from Syria on 9 October 1998 – the first stage of the international conspiracy that ended in his abduction back to Turkey in February 1999. Although the European Court of Human Rights ruled, back in 2014, that denying Öcalan the right to hope constituted torture, no action has been taken. The latest deadline was September, but the case is not on the Committee of Ministers’ agenda.
Meanwhile, life without parole has been extended to thousands of other political prisoners in Turkey – along with increasing use of isolation. The prison regime is getting ever more cruel, and the Turkish state is clamping down ever harder on all opposition – especially on the HDP. Ongoing court cases could see the closure of the party and the imprisonment – without parole – of many leading members. The government has applied for more HDP MPs to have their parliamentary immunity lifted so that they too can be tried and jailed. A police attack on a demonstration to mark the 9 October left HDP MP, Habip Eksik, with a double fracture to his leg and a bleeding face. And a massive and violent police operation prevented all but a few people from attending the 10 October anniversary commemoration in Ankara for the more than 100 people who died when an ISIS suicide bomber attacked a peace rally called by the HDP and other left organisations in 2015.
Most of the politicians at Monday’s demonstration outside the Council of Europe had spent time in prison before their exile – some for 15 or 20 years. The demonstration was addressed by the HDP’s Honorary President, Ertuğrul Kürkçü (above), and by former MPs Hatip Dicle
and Selma Irmak,
and former mayor Selim Sadak.
Afterwards, the politicians met with the HDPs members of the Parliamentary Assembly, Hişyar Özsoy and Feleknas Uca, and other members of the Council of Europe’s Left Group.