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Europe

Turkey's pro-Kurd party left out of post-coup national unity

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Saruhan Oluc (seen in the picture) said Turkey President Erdogan seriously discriminated among the political parties by not inviting People’s Democratic Party to a meeting of parties leaders. Tony Cross/RFI

Turkey’s Kurdish-based People’s Democratic Party (HDP) is furious that it was not invited to a meeting of party leaders with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the 15 July coup attempt. The move was a sign that the Kurdish rights and democracy are still under threat in Turkey, party co-vice-president Saruhan Oluc told RFI.

“By not inviting our party, Erdogan seriously discriminated among the political parties who stood against the 15 July coup from the very first moment, not only in the parliament but also through their supporters,” Oluc told RFI in an interview in Istanbul on Tuesday.

HDP MPs joined deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Action Party (MHP) at the Turkish parliament in Ankara when it was under attack by putschist soldiers.

Afterwards the CHP made an appeal for national unity in the face of the threat to democracy, blamed by the government and the secularists on US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen’s followers in the Turkish military and civil service.

Erdogan responded by inviting the CHP and MHP leaders to a meeting, along with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, on Monday.

But the HDP was not on the guest list.

HDP leaders say their exclusion bodes ill for the Kurdish-majority south-east, where the military is fighting a no-holds-barred war against armed Kurdish insurgents.

“These three parties’ coming together signals another thing,” Oluc commented. “The three parties are coming together on a nationalist basis and this shows that they will not take a step for solution of Kurdish problem that might have prepared the political ground for this coup.”

Mistakes by Erdogan created the conditions for the coup, the HDP argues.

The party believes that Erdogan turned his back on the peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) after the AKP failed to win an outright majority in the first of Turkey’s two general elections last year.

It also opposes Erdogan’s increasing authoritarianism and his plan to establish a presidential system, which would put the official stamp on the concentration of power in his hands.

“It is interesting that in the night of coup attempt, some of the airplanes which bombarded the parliament took off from Diyarbakir airport [in the south-east],” Oluc said. “The same airplanes, were bombarding the Kurdish districts of Nusbaybin, Yüksekova, Şırnak a few weeks ago.”

The air force conducted the current bombing campaign a year ago, he recalls. “For one year, the situation has been very severe in Kurdistan. These severe conditions were not seen in Turkey even in the 1990s, one of the periods when the war was at its peak and murders by unidentified perpetrators were at their highest.”

Curfew has been declared for 67-68 times in 23 districts in eight towns in the south-east in the last year, for a total of 1,500 days, according to Kurdish groups’ calculations, and part or all of several towns have been flattened as troops destroy autonomous zones established by young Kurdish fighters.

“This war environment gave a high level initiative for the military and soldiers, laid the ground for them,” Oluc argued. “When you lay this ground you are creating the basis for a coup.”

The purge that has followed the failed power grab has left the military seriously weakened with thousands of personnel, from conscripts to generals and admirals, detained and the government considering a complete restructuring of the armed forces.

That and efforts to root out the Gulenists should mean divert attention from the conflict in the south-east.

“Already 120 generals have been arrested, one-third of the high-ranking personnel,” Ocul pointed out. “This will mean an easing off of the clashes in the south-east. But, if there is not the political will to bring the war to an end, they will start again and people will continue to die.”

After the meeting with the CHP and MHP leaders, Erdogan announced that they would be working on changing the country’s constitution, although they have opposed the most important measures he has proposed so far.

That plan, and the restrictions on civil liberties that come with the state of emergency, could prepare the way for new coups and more authoritarian government, according to Oluc, and he appealed to the European Union to help defend Turkish democracy.

“Erdogan has made many governments in Europe give in because of the refugee crisis,” he said. “And we have seen the result. European governments should not give up their democratic values so easily, even if the issue is Turkey. It is very important that democratic powers in Europe put up stronger resistance and take a strong stand in the European Parliament and the European Commission to get Turkey to take a democratic line.”

On Tuesday, Yildirim said the HDP could be brought into discussions on redrafting the constitution, an offer it might take up to prevent the other parties being coopted into a Turkish-nationalist bloc.

It remains to be seen whether all these longstanding political enemies can arrive at consensus on how Turkey should be governed in the future.

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