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Gultan Kisanak, co-mayor of Diyarbakir

DP details systematic oppression in Erdogan’s new Turkey as show trial reopens in Ankara

Originally published: The Morning Star (May 20, 2021)   | 

JAILED Kurdish politician Gultan Kisanak hit out at Turkish prosecutors and warned of “a political coup” as she mounted a spirited defence in an Ankara courtroom today.

She took the stand as the so-called Kobani case against 108 leading figures from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) reopened in the Turkish capital, telling the court that it would be shamed when the truth came out.

“I am a Kurd. I am a Kurdish woman. Don’t look for other words to define me. You call me a separatist ‘terrorist.’ We are giving you a chance to get out of this embarrassing situation,” the former mayor of Diyarbakir said.

The Kobani case is the biggest political trial in modern Turkish history with 108 leading HDP officials and parliamentarians facing multiple life sentences as a 3,350-page case file indicts them on 38 counts of homicide.

They are blamed for the deaths of 37 protesters who were killed by Turkish security services and government-affiliated paramilitaries after the HDP called for street protests following Mr Erdogan’s inaction during the October 2014 siege of Kobani in northern Syria.

Former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas, who has been held since November 2016, faces a 15,000-year sentence if found guilty of the charges against him.

Ms Kisanak said that the party was being punished for its success in the June 2015 elections, when it broke through the arbitrary 10 per cent threshold with 80 HDP MPs elected to Turkey’s Grand Assembly, breaking the majority of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

“We showed that hope was possible in Turkey and people with different identities could do politics side by side. A political coup was triggered immediately,” she said.

An HDP report sent to the Morning Star this week outlined what it described as the “systemic oppression” of the party, with the jailing of its leading figures aimed at shutting it out of democratic political life.

The party said that 14 parliamentarians are currently in jail, some of whom have been indicted in the Kobani trial along with 37 HDP municipal co-chairs and 15 co-mayors.

As many as 10,000 members and supporters have been sentenced to prison since 2016, with the report suggesting that more than 4,000 of them remain behind bars.

The HDP called for the international community, including Western governments, to bring pressure to bear on Turkey and not normalise the oppression of all layers of society.

“Whenever Erdogan’s ‘new Turkey’ is accepted as a legitimate partner wars, violence, occupation, oppression, persecution and imprisonment become normalised–this should never become normalised,” a spokesperson said.

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