Selahattin Demirtas: We are not the PKK’s political wing

Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas says that the Kurdish-focused People’s Democratic Party (HDP) has no relations of any kind with the PKK.

Undoubtedly, political campaign is not an easy job in Turkey’s political structure and requires a lot of experience and skills. A look at the political history of the Republic of Turkey shows that only experienced politicians have had the chance to lead the country’s political affairs so far.

But Selahattin Demirtas a politician of a Kurdish descent who was initially underestimated by many Turkish politicians, soon proved that they were wrong. The story of Demirtas’s rise to power and fame in a country where it is not easy for Kurds to enter politics is a testimony of political transformation in Turkey.

Now, the former HDP (People’s Democratic Party) co-leader is a political figure that not only represents a large number of Turkish Kurds, but also a part of the leftists in the country.

Demirtaş, who is currently jailed on different political and security charges is running his election campaign from behind the bars.

While in prison, Demirtas who is currently serving his prison sentence being convicted on different political and security charges, is running his election campaign from behind the bars answered question that were put forward by MNA Turkish Department staff member Kamran Ghaderi Azar through his lawyers.

What opportunities and difficulties have you faced during your presidential campaign from prison? Are you hoping that you will be released soon?

My imprisonment is totally illegal and politically motivated. I not only am a lawmaker, but also a presidential candidate. I have been in jail for 20 months now while my trial could have been done without me being imprisoned. Now they do not even allow me to conduct my election campaign freely, and the letters and messages that I am sending outside prison through my lawyers are the only way that my voice is being heard. Under these conditions, it has become almost impossible for me to conduct my campaign because the prison atmosphere is quite unfair to me. It is clear now that the upcoming election is not going to be fair. This is taking place while Erdogan is using all the public facilities in his campaign.

If you are elected the Turkish president, what will you do with the peace process between the Turkish government and the Kurds that was initiated by the AKP but failed very soon?

We are looking for a solution to the Kurdish question through democratic and peaceful methods. We support any means to end violence  in Turkey and any means that will lead to recognize the Kurds’ legitimate rights, especially our civil rights. I am sure that we can achieve that goal in a short period of time.

Is solving the Kurdish question the only HDP’s goal or it also represents non-Kurds?

The HDP is a movement that has been supported by non-Kurdish citizens as well in addition to a large number of Kurds. We represent not only the Kurds but all the beliefs and ethnicities. We do not consider ourselves to be a solely Kurdish party, but a party that insists on democracy for all ethnic groups based on multicultural beliefs. Meanwhile, I have to emphasize that in line with our democratic goals, we will courageously pursue the demands of the Kurds through political methods.

What is the relationship between the HDP and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)? Is there any cooperation and coordination of any kind between the two?

Unlike PKK, which insists on violence and armed struggle, we are a party that acts legally under the Turkish constitution. We never agree with violence at all. There is a fundamental difference between us and the PKK. We are not the political wing of the PKK.

What measures have you taken to have a healthy and fair election in the Kurdish areas?

The AKP-MHP coalition’s only strategy is to use the state-owned facilities to prevent us from passing the 10% electoral threshold to enter the parliament to pave the way for their own majority in the parliament. Of course, we have no doubt that we will succeed in the upcoming elections based on the public support we can see. However, factors such as electoral fraud, Erdogan’s decree that the HDP must lose the elections, as well as manipulating and relocating the ballot boxes are going to hinder the democratic process of elections. Anyway, our party accompanied by the people are working together to make the elections fair and democratic as much as possible. We will do our best to protect even single vote. I think the people will protect the ballot boxes and voters will be vigilant to represent their national will.

If the election goes to a run off, will you form a coalition with other parties?

We are ready for any kind of political cooperation within based on our own principles and the history of our political activities shows that. We will announce our decision later when the time arrives.

Given the fact that populist politics and demagogy play an important part Turkish election, to what extent your party’s slogans match with your actions?

Our political slogans are designed to reflect our political goals and projects the best. While I am still in jail, the slogans and the modern discourse of our party are popular with the people and we have great effect on them.

If you are elected as the Turkey’s president, what approach will you take to tackle problems your country is facing in the Middle East now, and how your relations with Iran, Iraq and Syria will be?

We will have an effective dialogue with neighboring countries and the entire Middle East. We certainly will not support interventionist policies with imperial goals in Iran, Syria and Iraq. Our foreign policy will be letting alone every country solve its problems through relying on its people within the framework of democracy. We will establish friendly relations with the people of those countries in addition to their governments. We will take big steps especially in economic, cultural, sports and social fields. We believe that Turkey can have very close relations with its neighbors while seeking to join the EU. We will pursue more courageous and more friendly politics in that regard.

First published in our partner MNA