HDP presidential candidate has published an article in The New York Times. Selahattin Demirtaş writes in the piece: “I am writing from a maximum-security prison in Edirne, a city in northwestern Turkey, near the border with Bulgaria. I was arrested one year and eight months ago while I was a member of the Turkish parliament and the co-chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, known as the HDP, for which six million people voted in the last election”.
In the article the HDP presidential candidate underlined how “my jailers chose to imprison me here because Edirne is far from my home, family and friends in the southeastern Kurdish region of the country. My cellmate is, like me, an elected member of the parliament”.
Reminding how the Turkish government led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, has turned its back on universal democratic values and pushed the country to the brink of political and economic crisis, Demirtaş writes: “With the exception of President Erdogan, all of my fellow candidates have declared that I should be freed. They cast aside ideological differences and came to my defense because they know the government is holding me for its own political gain and not for any crime I committed. They understand that if I were free, Mr. Erdogan’s chances of winning the elections would be far slimmer”.
Demirtaş writes he is among the tens of thousands of dissidents who have been targeted by punitive measures normalized under the state of emergency. The government has so far started 102 investigations and filed 34 separate court cases against me. If it has its way, I will face 183 years in prison.
“The accusations against me in the indictments by prosecutors – writes the HDP presidential candidate – are based entirely on political speeches and statements that I made”.
Demirtaş states: “My prosecution has been unjust. My arrest was a political decision. I remain a political hostage”.
Recalling he has been deprived of the right to hold rallies or communicate directly with the people during the election campaign, Demirtaş adds: “I reach you and the world beyond the prison walls through messages conveyed by my lawyers. I address the people through social media accounts my advisers help me run”.
Demirtaş says his Twitter account was dormant for a long while after my arrest. “When tweets from my account started appearing again in September 2017, – he writes – prison guards rushed in to inspect my cell. The search was pretty invasive. When I asked them what they were searching for, they replied that they were looking for the source of my tweets.
The only vaguely sophisticated device they found in my cell was the electric kettle I use to boil water. After establishing that I could not have used the kettle to tweet, the guards left”.
For the past three years, the HDP presidential candidate recalls, the AKP has conducted a relentless propaganda campaign with the acquiescence of the media to undermine the HDP.
“Yet – he proudly writes – our voters and supporters have remained steadfast.
The coming elections will shape the future of Turkey, writes Demirtaş. “It is statistically unlikely that any candidate who shuns the support of Turkey’s Kurdish population — around one-fifth of its 81 million people — and their demands for peace can win. An inherently anti-democratic rule in Turkey bars a political party that does not win 10 percent of the national vote from taking its seats in the parliament”.
Despite all obstacles, though, Demirtaş confirms the party is “confident of crossing the steep threshold”, yet he warns that “if we fail to get 10 percent of the vote, around 80 of our parliamentary seats will go to Mr. Erdogan’s party, which would deliver him a comfortable majority in the parliament and further ease his executive presidency”.
In essence, the AKP rule will be unjustly secured through the votes of millions of disenfranchised Kurdish citizens.
Turkey, Demirtaş says in the closing lines of his article, “now understands that the collective punishment of the Kurds on the southeastern periphery affects freedoms and democratic culture across the country. What was limited to the Kurds has become the norm for Mr. Erdogan’s opponents elsewhere too. The only hope for a liberal, democratic future lies in our coming together to defeat the authoritarian regime”.