Interview. Faysal Sariyildiz, a member of Turkish Parliament for the pro-Kurdish party, HDP, spoke with il manifesto.

HDP fights back amid far-right calls for ‘Kurdish genocide’

Faysal Sariyildiz is a congressional representative of the leftist pro-Kurdish HDP party for the Sirnak-Cizre district. He is in Europe to denounce the massacre carried out by the Turkish army in his city. We interviewed him about the recent waiver of immunity for members of Congress.

The measure will affect members of all political parties, from Erdogan’s AKP to HDP, to the Kemalist Republican-CHP and the nationalist MHP. But its apparent design seems to specifically target political dissidents. “The goal is to stop the Kurdish representatives and clear the HDP political area,” he said. “In Turkey, the judiciary power is subordinate to Erdogan. When we recovered the corpses in Cizre, they said they were not human remains, but animal carcasses. They have already opened up many processes, accusing us [the PKK] of being part of a terrorist organization.”

Is there any difference between the charges brought against the HDP parliamentarians and the representatives of other political forces?

The investigations against AKP representatives focus mainly on corruption incidents. The CHP Congress members are accused mainly of insulting the President of the Republic. There are big differences in the numbers, too. The CHP has 51 representatives accused in 179 investigation proceedings. The AKP, 27 representatives in 46 proceedings. The MHP, seven parliamentarians in 17 cases. The HDP, 53 representatives in 354 proceedings. Out of 59 present in Parliament. They are almost exclusively accused for crimes of opinion. My case is an exception. I am being accused of bringing weapons into Cizre during the siege, hiding them inside a coffin. The newspapers have released photos that prove that I carried a dead body, but without any coffin. For three months, I was the only parliamentarian able to enter the city. During that time, horrible things have happened.

Why did some CHP parliamentarians vote in favor of this reform?

The press wrote that the military has exerted strong pressure on the party, which nevertheless did not vote unanimously. Only the executive voted in favor. They say they have done it to “protect the State.” They believe the HDP is a danger and want to eliminate it, even by supporting the AKP. The CHP said from the beginning that it would have voted for the revocation, despite being unconstitutional. The Turkish population slips toward a more extreme chauvinism. No party wants to protect the HDP. Moreover, the CHP is a squad inserted in the Turkish State apparatus.

What will be the response of the HDP and the Kurdish movement if the MPs are detained?

It is not yet decided. We want to lead a democratic and political struggle within Turkey. But of course there are variables. Our co-president said that if this measure will be brought to the end, we will respect the decision of the people. There will be regional meetings to choose the forms of struggle. Also because the situation in Turkish Kurdistan continues to be very tense. There are continuous clashes at Sirnak, and the Turkish army is suffering many casualties. In order not to lower the morale of the soldiers, they are even hiding the bodies of fallen soldiers.

The waiver of immunity caused some reactions. The President of the European Parliament, Mr. Schulz, has condemned this decision. Merkel has threatened a stop to the liberalization of visas if Turkey does not respect democracy, a “system that relies on independent judiciary, press and a strong parliament.” Three pillars that have collapsed in Erdogan’s Turkey. After the agreement on refugees and the silence on the Cizre massacre, according to the HDP, can the European integration process still be a factor in the democratization of the Turkish state?

Europe has its principles, and we believe it can push Turkey toward a democratization of the state. The application of the main international protocols on human rights should be binding for E.U. membership. This would be good, because Turkey is going through a dangerous drift toward a postmodern fascism. In recent weeks I have traveled around Europe: Everyone is aware that Erdogan is leading an undemocratic government. But the political forces continue to pursue a short-sighted pragmatism. Europe is likely to suffer serious consequences: Erdogan is using all the weapons at his disposal, from supporting Daesh to the migration inflows from Syria. The European realpolitik pretends not to see who has sent trucks full of weapons to Daesh terrorists, as has been documented by Turkish journalists, or who is responsible for triggering migration flows from Syria toward Turkey. In addition, the policy of supporting Erdogan is fomenting the fascist forces of Turkish society. These days, there is much talk of the Armenian genocide, their mass deportation. Some are calling for the same measures against the Kurds. We will fight and resist so our people do not suffer the same fate.

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