Selahattin Demirtaş’s interview with Medyascope from Edirne Prison: “Change has begun in Turkey, now in order to build anew it is time for powers to come together”

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Translated by Leo Kendrick

Former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been imprisoned in Edirne for five years, answered Medyascope‘s questions through his lawyers. “Change has begun in Turkey. Both the HDP and the Kurds are the pioneers and parts of this change,” Demirtaş said, adding, “Everyone should abandon thinking and doing politics according to old patterns, habits and templates. It is necessary to abandon the language of complaints, the language of victims and the language that seeks help, and act with the mission and self-confidence of the constituent power. There is no AKP-MHP in the Turkey of the future, they are finished. Now is the time for the broadest unity of the forces of democracy to build anew.”

Former HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş answered Medyascope reporter Ferit Aslan‘s questions from prison through his lawyers. 

Demirtaş evaluated recent statements by Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chairman and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who had said, “We do not recognize the decisions taken by the European Union regarding Osman Kavala and Selahattin Demirtaş.” Demirtaş also shared his views on the attitude of the opposition parties after the joint rally call, and the attitude of HDP and Kurdish voters in the Presidential election.

“Kurds cannot participate in politics in an equal way without being subject to cruelty, oppression, threats, arrests, and political appointees.”

-Do you think Erdoğan has given up hope on the Kurdish voters? Why does the government insist on continuing the current policy, when everyone continuously insists that HDP and Kurdish voters are the key to electoral success?

What Erdogan will or won’t do doesn’t really interest me at all. We are interested in what we will do ourselves. Kurds do not care at all what Erdoğan will say or do. Its applications in recent years are more than enough to make an assessment. After all this cruelty, pressure, threats, insults, appointees, operations, and arrests, are the Kurds expected to turn their faces to the AKP-MHP? To reply to this is cruel for me and insulting for the Kurds. It’s done, it’s over. There is no return, no excuse, no compensation. The Kurds cannot cannot participate in an equal way while being subject to all these things. Change has begun in Turkey. Both the HDP and the Kurds are the pioneers and parts of this change. Everyone should abandon thinking and doing politics according to old patterns, habits and patterns. A new era is beginning and we have to stick to a proactive style of politics where everyone can win. It is necessary to abandon the language of complaints, the language of victims, the language that seeks help, and act with the mission and self-confidence of the founding power. There is no AKP-MHP in the Turkey of the future, they are finished. Now is the time for the broadest union of democratic forces to build anew.

“In absence of a strategy, Erdoğan acts in a state of anger and panic.”

-Regarding the decision of the European Court of Human Rights on you and Osman Kavala’s cases, President Erdoğan said “We do not recognize it. It is that simple.” What do you say to this?

Because Erdoğan is trying to build his regime on unconstitutionality and lawlessness, there is nothing strange about his approach. In this new freak system, the single man himself has replaced the law. The architecture and operation of the system are in proportion to the power of this single man. Therefore, Erdoğan feels the need to remind himself that his personal regime is in operation by showcasing power at every opportunity. The rule of law and the Erdoğan regime cannot coexist; if one exists, the other does not. However, this regime is not a sustainable system in today’s Turkey. It has already collapsed and began to fall apart bit by bit. Some people think that Erdogan acted very wisely and in a planned way. However, this is definitely not the case. In absence of a strategy, he acts in a state of anger and panic. He knows that he can’t fix the situation. Therefore, it follows a “sunk fish” expenditure policy. Neither mind nor intelligence is needed for this policy. Therefore, it can “successfully” implement this “sunk fish” policy.
Note: When using this term “sunk fish” policy, Demirtaş references a Turkish idiom used for situations in which something happens and there is nothing one can do about it. In using this expression, Demirtaş criticizes what he sees as President Erdoğan’s inability to fix Turkey’s deepening economic crisis.

“People’s power is more effective than Trump’s tweets”

-To what do you attribute this stance of Erdoğan, especially regarding you and Osman Kavala? If you were a citizen of another country, do you think this would have happened?

As I mentioned, Erdogan needs me and Osman Kavala to be kept under arrest in order to show his strength, to make him feel powerful. Thus, it aims to keep both Kurdish and Turkish dissidents under pressure. Through symbolic names, it sends a threatening message to all state mechanisms, especially the judicial bureaucracy. Of course, it is necessary to add his personal anger, grudge and vengeance towards us. Considering that Pastor Brunson, Deniz Yücel and the Israeli tourist couple were released at Erdoğan’s order, yes, one of the reasons we are still inside is that we are citizens of the Republic of Turkey. Fortunately, we also have people we trust. The sanction power of the people is more effective than the tweets of Trump or any US president. We will witness this together.

“Erdogan sometimes forgets that I am in prison on his own orders”

President Erdogan made a statement directed to you saying, “You should hold a rally instead of giving advice to the opposition to hold a joint rally”. How would you rate this?

You have to ask him, is he aware of what he is saying? I guess he forgets from time to time that I am in prison on his own orders. Maybe he has amnesia, maybe he thinks I’m out because I continue to do politics from prison. May God give you an idea, what should I say? I have a tweet about this. He still hasn’t responded.

“The opposition should stop taking a stand based on the possibility of an attack by AKP trolls”

-Do you think the opposition, including the HDP, is doing enough in this period? For example, you had a joint rally call.

Despite all the pressure, the opposition is waging a great and determined struggle. The most pressure is on the HDP, but the strongest and most resilient is also the HDP. A joint rally is a suggestion, maybe it will be taken more seriously during the election period. The opposition should stop taking a stand based on the possibility of an attack by AKP trolls. Instead of making policy decisions by looking at this group, everyone should turn their faces to the people.

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