108 people are currently on trial for speaking out against the Turkish state’s support for Daesh

HDP flags
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108 people are standing trial this week in Ankara in a case that’s been dubbed a political “show trial”.

Many of the defendants are from the left-wing, radically democratic People’s Democratic Party (HDP), the third largest party in the Turkish parliament. Others are connected to civil society organisations and to the Kurdistan freedom movement.

The allegations against them include terrorism and murder.

If convicted, the party’s former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş is facing a ridiculous demand from the chief prosecutor of 15,000 years in prison. All of the 108 defendants are facing prison. 21 of them have already been incarcerated pending the results of the trial.

Several people who are current HDP members of the Turkish parliament attended the trial as observers.

A mass prosecution triggered a tweet

According to the Firat News Agency (ANF), the prosecution was triggered by a tweet issued by the HDP’s Executive Council in 2014, when the Turkish state had placed an embargo on cross border aid to Rojava in support of the Daesh’s (ISIS) attack on the city of Kobanî.

The tweet called for an ongoing protest in support of the people of Kobanî. It read:

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Urgent call to our peoples […]! The situation in Kobanê is extremely critical. We call on our people to take to the streets and support those who are already on the streets to protest the ISIS attacks and the AKP government’s embargo.

A movement for a real people’s democracy

The tweet came at the same time that people in Bakur – the part of Kurdistan that lies within Turkey’s borders – began ramping up their movement for autonomy. The movement was inspired by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party leader Abdullah Öcalan‘s ideas of democratic confederalism. The democratic autonomy movement – although initiated by the Kurdistan freedom movement – includes people from diverse religions and ethnicities.

By 2015, people in several cities had declared autonomy from the Turkish state, barricading their city centres and organising democratic assemblies, village communes, and cooperatives.

The Turkish state’s response to the movement was bloody. It declared curfews across Bakur, and attacked people with heavy weaponry. 50,000 were displaced from the city of Amed (Diyarbakır in Turkish) alone.

Since then, the Turkish state has repeatedly replaced the HDP’s elected mayors with kayyums – trustees who are state stooges appointed by the president. The state has also attacked workers’ cooperatives in Kurdistan, arrested tens of thousands of people, and closed down Kurdish language schools and TV channels. It is currently taking legal action to try to ban the HDP.

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, meanwhile, has found Erdoğan and the Turkish state guilty of war crimes against the Kurdish people. The Turkish state has also ignored a 2020 ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that Demirtaş should be released from prison and that his continued incarceration was:

stifling pluralism and limiting freedom of political debate: the very core of the concept of a democratic society.

A show trial aimed at continuing the repression of the movement

The trial – dubbed the ‘Kobanî trial’ – is an extension of the Turkish state’s repression of the movement.

Several people have spoken out on Twitter this year in support of the defendants:

The trial comes against the backdrop of renewed threats by Erdoğan to extend Turkish military action in Syria.

Defendants united

Those accused were united in refusing to give their defence speeches to the judge who had been appointed for the trial. The defendants have been arguing throughout the trial that they cannot get a fair hearing. Former HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ – who is also standing trial – said at a previous hearing:

Our right to defense should not be blocked in this courtroom, but it is blocked. Failure to respect my right to defense is a sign of how the panel of judges will proceed

ANF reported on Monday 18 November that:

The lawyers will meet their clients during the next pause and make their decisions on whether they will give a defence or not.

The state’s revenge for Kobanî victory

A HDP statement says that the trial is intended to avenge the movements’ victory against Daesh, which happened despite the “ongoing support for ISIS being shown by the Turkish regime”:

With this show trial, they want to portray known politicians as criminals in order for social support to the HDP to be arrested. The 3530-page indictment contains evidence that has nothing to do with the truth. If things go according to Erdogan’s wishes, Selahattin Demirtas should spend up to 15,000 years in prison. This is the request of the Office of the Attorney General. But this is a proxy trial to avenge the victory against ISIS at Kobani.

Featured image by Corporate Watch (with permission)

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Get involved

  • To find out more about Democratic Confederalism, you can read Abdullah Öcalan‘s writing here
  • Check out the Boycott Turkey campaign
  • Get involved with your local Kurdistan Solidarity group

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