ANKARA: The gulf between the words and actions of the Turkish government regarding the Kurdish conflict is widening.
Bulent Arinc, a founding member of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, recently criticized the continued detention of Selahattin Demirtas, former co-chair of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), and called for his release.
On November 4, Demirtas will have spent four years in prison after being arrested for supporting terrorism – a government tactic the HDP has called a “political coup” against the country’s one and only pro-Kurdish party.
Detained without trial since 2016, Demirtas is incarcerated in the northwestern border town of Edirne, 1,700 km from his hometown of Diyarbakir where his family resides, making it difficult for his wife and daughters to reach him.
Referring to Demirtas’ recent storybook “Devran”, which he wrote in prison, Arinc, who is also President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s main adviser, said: “Everyone should read ‘Devran’. Maybe your ideas about Demirtas won’t change, but you will understand what the Kurds went through. Your ideas about the Kurds might change. Our prosecutors and judges should operate on the principle of liberty. “
These groundbreaking comments theoretically matched Erdogan’s statement last week that Turkey was entering a new period of democratization, alluding to new judicial reform packages expected for next year.
Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul also recently criticized Turkey’s lengthy pre-trial detention.
In an interview last month, Demirtas said he thought he was behind bars because Erdogan was afraid of him.
The government’s “renaissance” sounds encouraging, but in the end, actions matter more than words.
Demirtas’ book, available on Amazon and any bookstore in Turkey, was recently labeled “terrorist propaganda” by a Turkish prosecutor.
A day after Erdogan’s top advisor bombing remarks, Turkish authorities also issued arrest warrants on November 20 for 101 Kurdish lawyers and NGO representatives in home raids as part of an investigation . Half of them were released on Saturday, but their personal phones were seized.
“The detentions are part of a systematic policy of threat and silence,” the Diyarbakir bar said in a statement.
“The raids that have been undertaken today have shown once again that the voice of the Bar of Diyarbakir wants to be silenced and that there is a direct intervention against the work of NGOs.
Human Rights Watch and Article 19 issued a joint statement on November 19 saying that the Turkish government “has twisted and perverted the judicial process” to keep Demirtas and other HDP politicians behind bars by “abusing detention and criminal charges in a campaign of persecution against Demirtas in particular. “
For some experts, the latest wave of detention could be linked to a political wing within the government that intends to promote its alliance with the nationalist party MHP, which did not hide its unease at the party’s latest statements on Demirtas.
Mehmet Emin Aktar, former head of the Diyarbakir Bar Association, said no charges were laid when issuing detention warrants to lawyers.
“In the 2019 local elections, our bar lawyers were assigned as electoral watchdogs and they fulfilled this professional duty with legal documents that we issued. The Turkish authorities have reportedly found documents bearing the names of these lawyers and activists during a raid on the Congress of the Democratic Society, or DTK, which, according to the Turkish authorities, is linked to the banned PKK, ”he said. told Arab News.
DTK was founded as a large-scale political forum bringing together Kurdish civil society groups in Turkey, and played a role between 2009 and 2015 as a bridge between the government and various Kurdish groups during the peace process that aimed to end more than three decades of conflict. which claimed the lives of thousands of people. However, the peace process was suspended in July 2015.
Aktar said that beyond rhetorical promises of judicial reform in Turkey, the move aimed to intimidate the region’s lawyers and Kurdish activists into silence.
“I must say that we have been expecting such a decision for a long time. However, I don’t suppose that the Kurds will be intimidated and stop their civil society activism with such tactics, ”he said.