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Is Turkey a democracy?

Is Turkey a democracy? Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Nobel Prize for Peace recipient,  Nora Cortinas, Mother of the Plaza de Mayo and Beverly Keene, Coordinator of Dialogo 2000, Argentina have issued a joint statement condemning the arrests of more than 500 in Turkey.

Many are asking, is Turkey a democracy? After the Turkish President Erdogan arrested hundreds of political opponents and overturned huge democratic mandates to remove Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Mayors, Council Members and employees in Diyarbakir, Mardin and Vans South and Eastern Turkey on Monday 19th of August 2019.

The arrest of political leaders from HDP is unacceptable

This latest lurch toward dictatorship has been widely condemned within Turkey with the deputy leader of the main opposition CHP party describing the move as tantamount to fascism with even Turkey’s former president Abdullah Gul making critical statements of Erdogan’s latest authoritarian move.

Erdogan’s ruling AKP had already overturned a Mayoral election result in Istanbul earlier in the year demanding the election be rerun. It lost a second time on the 23rd of June.

The international community including the leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn joined those condemning this latest move from the Turkish regime. 

This government no longer has even a modicum of democratic legitimacy

A statement issued by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Central Executive Board describes these arrests as a coup and a hostile move against the political will of the Kurdish people.

Our Municipal Co-chairs, who were elected with 63% of the vote in Diyarbakır, 56% of the vote in Mardin and 53% of the vote in Van, have been removed from duty with an Interior Ministry order based on lies and unlawful grounds. A severe operation of detentions targeting our municipal council members and employees continues at this moment. 

This is a new and clear political coup. It also constitutes a clearly hostile move against the political will of the Kurdish people. The Interior Ministry is acting as the enforcer of decisions and practices that usurp rights and freedoms, carry out provocations and leave not even a single grain of democracy behind. 

This government no longer has even a modicum of democratic legitimacy. To usurp the will of the people, and to extort what they could not gain at the elections, through state violence, force and trickery have become the practices of this AKP-MHP alliance

Peoples’ Democratic Party Central Executive Board 19 August 2019

Erdogan breaking international and regional covenants

Human Rights Watch believe that Turkey’s presidential system lacks sufficient checks and balances against abuse of executive power, greatly diminishes the powers of parliament and consolidates presidential control over most judicial appointments.

President Erdogan’s government has effectively cancelled the results of the March local elections in the three main cities of the Kurdish southeast by removing voters’ chosen mayors, all valid candidates, and taking over these municipalities. Smearing the mayors by alleging vague links with terrorism to deprive the Kurdish population of their chosen representatives endangers everyone in Turkey who is committed to democratic elections, human rights, and the rule of law.

These moves by Erdogan’s government against democratically elected officials violate Turkey’s obligations under international and regional human rights law, and they violate the right to political participation, the right to free elections, and the right to freedom of expression under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch

The President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe has also expressed his “grave concern” about the recent developments in Turkey.

These mayors were elected as a result of the free and fair expression of the will of the Turkish people during the local elections [in March], which were observed by the Congress, I call on the Turkish authorities to address this issue without delay.

Anders Knape, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe

Peace in Kurdistan campaign calls on the UK government to act

Peace in Kurdistan which campaigns for a political solution to the Kurdish question and whose patrons include MP’s, Lords, Trade Union General Secretaries, journalists, artists and academics such as Naom Chomsky has written to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

These dismissals and their replacement by state-appointed governors demonstrate that the current government in Turkey will not tolerate any representation of the Kurds or any manifestation of Kurdish political identity. From across the political spectrum in Turkey and from Turkey’s legal and human rights bodies, the forced removal of the elected representatives has been condemned as a dangerous threat to democracy that must be challenged and reversed. We call on the British government to condemn and challenge the action of the Turkish Interior Ministry.

The HDP has successfully campaigned to win representation in local government and in the National Assembly. Its members and supporters are drawn from across the different ethnic and religious communities that constitute Turkish society. It has sought a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue in Turkey and for that has been targeted by the Turkish government that is led by President Erdogan. Co-mayors of 96 HDP-held municipalities were dismissed prior to the latest action. HDP MPs have been gaoled, over 8,000 HDP and other opposition members have been imprisoned for several years – because they spoke out for the rights of Kurdish people and for that alone they are defined as terrorists. Thousands of local government employees have been sacked for their alleged political affiliations. Today, police forces and government appointees are occupying the municipal buildings where elected representatives had once worked and carried out their democratic duties.

In recent years, British parliamentarians from different political parties have invited and discussed with HDP representatives in the Palace of Westminster and they have visited Turkey to meet HDP MPs. These parliamentarians also want a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue in Turkey and the Middle East.

We call on you, the representative of the British government, to condemn the removal of the elected mayors and to demand that they are reinstated forthwith. We urge you to stress clearly to the Foreign Minister of Turkey that the British government wants to see the authorities in Turkey open a dialogue with the gaoled Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan as part of a process towards a peaceful and democratic solution to the crisis in Turkey. What vestiges of democracy that remain in Turkey are in peril as President Erdogan uses the force of decree and autocratic powers to overturn the results of democratic elections.

Peace in Kurdistan

Is Turkey a democracy?

If the democratic mandate of the people can be so recklessly overturned by a tyrant such as Erdogan then is Turkey a democracy? It’s clear at the very least that the ruling AKP and President Erdogan are increasingly enemies of democracy

The Freedom for Ocalan campaign continues to build Trade Union solidarity for a democratic and peaceful resolution to the current regimes flagrant disregard for Kurdish rights, democratic conventions, Trade Union organising, human rights and civil liberty.

We condemn this latest move from the increasingly dictatorial Erdogan and call on all Trade Unionists to do the same.

How can you help the campaign?

With growing support in the trade union movementdevolved governments and the Parliamentary Labour Party the Freedom for Ocalan campaign is calling on trade unionists and activists to support the many local campaigns now running throughout the UK and Europe.

If you’re a member of a trade union it’s critical you support us by requesting your branch, regional or national trade union affiliate now.

With trade union support in the last twelve months we’ve been able to;

By Freedom for Ocalan

The Freedom for Öcalan campaign is a UK trade union-backed initiative to secure the release of imprisoned Kurdish political prisoner Abdullah Öcalan.

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