Selahattin Demirtaş, a co-Chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said on Tuesday that Kurdish parliament members have been taken hostage by Turkey’s government.
“Our members of parliament were taken hostage as the result of what amounts to a civilian coup d’état,” Demirtaş said in a statement released through his lawyer.
Turkey’s leading Kurdish politician accused the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, of trying to implement his own coup by hounding and purging his political opponents. “This is a new step taken by those who have, step by step, implemented various designs to consolidate one-man rule in Turkey,” Demirtaş said.
“It should not be forgotten that this attack, aimed at us defenders of a sisterly, equal, free and peaceful life, […] is also a joint-attack on all democratic forces,” Demirtaş added.
The HDP leader was arrested last Friday in Diyarbakir. Turkish prosecutors claim Demirtaş denigrated Erdoğan in a speech he gave condemning the arrest of Kurdish co-mayors in Diyarbakir city two weeks ago. The principle oratory themes of that speech were the silencing of the media, abuse of power and the need to restart the moribund peace process.
“There is no doubt that the only way out is to stand shoulder to shoulder, whatever the circumstances may be, […] and to spread the common struggle against fascism,” Demirtaş said on Tuesday.
“We expect and wish that the European public and Europe’s democratic institutions will display a much more effective and productive stance against these unlawful acts of oppression,” Demirtaş added.
While in the past it was impossible to charge lawmakers in Turkey, last May a decision was made to lift the immunity of some parliamentarians. Of Turkey’s 59 Kurdish MPs, 53 are currently being investigated by Turkey’s prosecutors. The overwhelming majority of the cases stem from the expression of objectionable ideas.
The arrests of Kurdish politicians are already leading to mass protests and a spike in tensions between Kurds and Ankara.
Anticipating those protests and tensions, Turkish security forces have severed the Internet connection of millions of people. Diyarbakir Metropolitan Municipality said that the ongoing “blackout attempt aims at silencing the voice of people in the region as well as preventing them from exercising their right to be informed.”
Rallying his supporters, Demirtaş said that Erdoğan’s “empire of fear will no doubt be dispersed soon. We will continue our struggle under all conditions and without losing our faith in democratic politics. Even if we are between four walls, we will continue to be part of the struggle outside.”