HDP faces being shut down after passing of controversial new law in Turkey targeting NGOs and civil society groups
TURKEY’S opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has said that as many as 20,000 of its supporters have been detained since 2016 — and there are fears the party will be closed down after the passage of a much criticised new law.
The shocking statistics, announced on Saturday, have met an international wall of silence as the Turkish state continues to wage the biggest clampdown on a legal social democratic party since the second world war.
HDP co-deputy head for local government Salim Kaplan said that “since 2016, 20,000 of our members have been taken into custody and more than 10,000 of our members and executives have been sent to jail.”
The revelation comes amid growing oppression of opposition voices by the Turkish state. Hundreds of key HDP officials and supporters have been targeted in police raids over the last few months.
Fears that the party could be closed down have been raised after the passing of the Law to Prevent the Financing & Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, an innocuous-sounding piece of legislation that ostensibly stops the funding of terrorism but which in reality contains a range of articles designed to paralyse opposition.
The law allows the government to take control of and even close non-governmental organisations, charities and political organisations “associated with terrorism.”
Lawyers warn that the legislation has helped enshrine into law most of the decrees that were adopted during the state of emergency put in place after Turkey’s failed 2016 coup and only rescinded in 2018.
The HDP is particularly vulnerable as its former leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag are among those jailed on trumped-up terrorism charges.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled last week that Mr Demirtas must be released, deeming his imprisonment political and in breach of both Turkish and international law.
Turkey predictably rejected the findings of the court. But Ankara was gifted a boost by what has been described by sources close to the case as “staggering incompetence” by Mr Demirtas’s legal team, who submitted a file for his release with the judgement of the court in English but with no Turkish translation, as required.
Critics have said the situation merely exposes the toothlessness of the European court, insisting that there is no legal solution, only a political one.
The ruling will test the willingness of European governments to press for Turkey to stick to its obligations and commitments as a member state of the Council of Europe. But the indications are not promising. Turkey’s defence in the Demirtas case, as pointed out by Kurdish academic Rosa Burc, was carried out by a German lawyer.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas rejected the imposition of a European Union arms embargo requested by Greece last week, saying it was “strategically incorrect.” Turkey, like Germany, is a member of Nato.
Such a blind eye allows authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a free hand to bomb Ain Issa in northern Syria, along with civilian targets in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Commenting on the international silence, British-based Kurdish and Turkish group Gik-Der said that solidarity was vital to “defeat the one-man fascism in Turkey.”
But it blasted Britain’s Labour Party for its continued failure to speak out while its sister party in Turkey continues to come under such sustained attacks.
The reasons for this, Gik-Der spokesman Ibrahim Avcil said, were due to the “economic dependency” of the British bourgeoisie, which has beneficial links with Turkey.
“The Labour Party is increasingly becoming a political representative of the financial oligarchy and thus ignores the attacks of Turkey on the HDP as it does not wish to upset the powers it politically represents,” he said.