HDP questions Erdoğan’s remarks while ray of hope appears in Ankara

HDP questions Erdoğan’s remarks while ray of hope appears in Ankara

HDP questions Erdoğan’s remarks while ray of hope appears in Ankara

Selahattin Demirtaş, co-leader of the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), greets his supporters during a rally to protest against security operations in Turkey's southeast, in the eastern city of Van, Turkey, January 7, 2016. REUTERS Photo

A co-leader of Turkey’s Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has raised question marks over President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s conviction that Turkey has had no Kurdish problem, while also challenging Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to a public debate over a presidential system and autonomy.

“The president says that ‘There is no Kurdish problem.’ So it means that the Kurdish problem has finished in an instant, just like that. When was it resolved? Kurds are in the dark,” HDP’s co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş said on Jan. 7 during a rally held in the eastern Anatolian province of Van.

A day ago, Erdoğan argued that Turkey has no Kurdish problem, only a terrorism problem, while maintaining his bellicose rhetoric on the conflagration in southeastern Anatolia.

“But in Turkey, there are those who have one-track minds: ‘Kurdish problem and Kurdish problem, Kurdish problem and Kurdish problem.’ You cannot get anyone to buy it,” Erdoğan said. 

The president’s remarks came as violence between the security forces and militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which reignited in the summer of 2015, shattering a fragile peace process and a two-and-a-half-year de facto period of non-conflict, flared. 

“They assumed that the HDP would be successful in elections if the peace process had resumed,” Demirtaş said, referring to the fact that violence escalated after the June 7 parliamentary elections that were unprecedentedly followed by snap elections on Nov. 1.

“That’s how the process was cut off. Did we give up dialogue? No. Let’s discuss around a table, let’s sadden each other but let’s not have those young bodies carried in coffins. People are dying every day but the gentleman comes up and says ‘I won’t be meeting you,’” Demirtaş said, referring to Prime Minister Davutoğlu.

In late December, Davutoğlu canceled a planned meeting on the making of a new constitution with the HDP, suggesting its politics are rooted in violence, dashing faint hopes of greater parliamentary cooperation amid continued clashes in the southeast. He did, however, hold meetings with both main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on the same issue.

“Weapons are speaking when politics are not speaking. We don’t have to like each other but we have to respect each other’s will,” Demirtaş said. “Let’s go on live broadcast. Let you defend presidential system and me, autonomy. Let you explain and let me explain too, what is the harm?” he asked.

Amid military operations and curfews since early December, according to figures released by the Turkish General Staff on Jan. 7, more than 300 PKK militants have been killed.

Locals in several southeastern areas subsequently erected barricades in an effort to prevent the entry of security forces, whom they accuse of committing rights abuses as well as killing civilians.

“Last year, during operations inside and outside the country, more than 3,100 terrorists were neutralized. Along the same period, we have around 300 casualties from soldiers, police, temporary village guards and civilian citizens,” Erdoğan said on Jan. 6.

A ray of hope in Ankara

In the capital city of Ankara on Jan. 7, HDP honorary chair and co-spokesperson of the Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK) Ertuğrul Kürkçü held a meeting with parliament speaker İsmail Kahraman, who hails from the AKP, over parliament’s possible role in ending the ongoing conflict. 

The meeting was not aimed at building a bridge between the government and the HDP, Kürkçü made clear while speaking to reporters after the meeting.

“We have conveyed our concerns that the clashes would resume by becoming more fatal if the parliament doesn’t take an initiative about the clashes and if the government is left alone with the people there,” he said. “Although he [Kahraman] hasn’t made an open commitment, I can say that we have seen a ray indicating steps to be taken and that our message has been taken,” he added.

Kürkçü said they offered that the parliament should establish a delegation in order to inspect clash zones. Kahraman didn’t “categorically” refuse the proposal, he said, noting that he has been hopeful that such a delegation would be formed upon Kahraman’s initiative.