Pervin Buldan (L) waves to the crowds at HDP’s conference on Sunday where she and Sezai Temelli (R) were elected co-chairs, replacing Serpil Kemalbay (C) and jailed Selahattin Demirtas. Photo: Adem Altan/AFP
Pervin Buldan, the new co-chair of Turkey’s People’s Democratic Party (HDP), shared her thoughts with Rudaw about the direction and priorities of the party as a snap election looks ever more likely.
She discussed the possibility of forming a united electoral front to take on the ruling party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the AKP, and its partners in the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). She also alleged irregularities in last year’s constitutional referendum and questioned the security of elections in Turkey.
Buldan offered an inside look at peace negotiations between the Turkish government and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) founder Abdullah Ocalan, accusing Ankara officials of deliberately blocking a negotiated solution.
Her comments come after a Turkish court sentenced Ocalan’s niece, HDP lawmaker Dilek Ocalan, to two years and six months in prison.
A criminal investigation has also been launched against Buldan, just a day after she was elected co-chair on February 11. Prosecutors accuse her of “carrying out terror propaganda” and “inciting grudges and enmity” among the public.
While peace talks with the PKK are currently stalled, Buldan predicts the Turkish state will be forced to the negotiating table with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resolve the “mistake” of the Afrin operation.
She also discussed the possibility of a long-delayed national congress, whereby the Kurds of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran convene to agree a common stance on Kurdish issues on the world stage.
Rudaw: You were elected party co-chair at the HDP’s third ordinary congress. You also changed the HDP’s administering body. What is the party’s priority in this new era?
Pervin Buldan: I want to clearly say that our priority in the coming era will be those decisions that our party was founded on five years ago. The People’s Democratic Party does not only consist of Kurds. HDP represents those components whose rights have been violated in Turkey and whose voices have been silenced. Also it is a party which represents various ideologies and identities. I want to say today that our faith in peace, freedom and democracy will increase step by step and our work will continue to achieve our demands. Unfortunately, we see the AKP wants to push us out of politics. We as HDP will never accept these pressures and we will stand against all [kinds] of injustice and unlawfulness. We as HDP have a responsibility to approach all parties and at the same time provide all Turkish people with hope and peace. This responsibility will continue.
There were some discussions inside the party on co-chairmanship before the congress took place. Are there any problem between Kurds and other components inside the party?
No. We have no problem with other components inside the People’s Democratic Party, but as it is the case with many other political parties there might be discussions, which is a normal thing. The People’s Democratic Party is a party which exists upon its various components. It’s everyone’s party. Our party’s central committee consists of member from different parts of Turkey, and the committee was formed to find solutions for all Turkish problems. We have no issues so far and I can say there will not be any.
I expect a snap election because the situation is not good and Turkey is heading for catastrophe
If all upcoming elections take place, Turkey is expected to have three elections, but there are reports that the presidency and parliamentary elections may take place earlier. Do you expect a snap election?
No election has taken place and will not take place on time in Turkey. Unfortunately this has become a reality in Turkey. Although Turkish elections take place once every five years, due to crises and chaos Turkey is a place where there are always snap elections. I expect a snap election because the situation is not good and Turkey is heading for catastrophe. We can expect a snap election as a result of the agreement made between AKP and MHP. There are claims that the elections may take place before July 15, but they are likely to take place in the autumn.
It is said that other parties – the CHP, HDP, Saadet and IYI Party – might come together to make an agreement against the AKP and MHP deal. Is such an agreement possible?
This is one of the most asked questions these days. [People ask us] who will you make an agreement with and who will you meet in this regard? But I always said this: we as HDP will make agreements with democratic forces that defend peace. We will make agreements with those parties that are willing to resolve the Kurdish question because we have positions we will not compromise on. Additionally, our doors are open to anyone who respects our measures. We believe those [parties] which defend peace and recognize democracy shall be under one umbrella. We have not had any meetings with any political parties to make an agreement. Also, our agreement front is democracy, hope and peace.
What parties are in the democracy framework? Are CHP and Saadet parties part of this framework?
Let me put it like this. Actually, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) owes an apology to the Turkish people because it cannot free itself from current crises. This party is one of the biggest reasons behind the current crises, including its position and decisions regarding Kurds, the arrest of [HDP] parliamentarians, and it is a pro-war party which has said yes to all military bills [when the Turkish army requests the parliament’s approval for its cross-border operations]. I believe the CHP has to first correct itself and owes Turkish people an apology. Currently, we do not have any meetings arranged with any party for agreements.
There are some other Kurdish parties outside HDP. As far as I know, most of them are not entitled to participate in elections. Are there any efforts to include these parties in elections under the umbrella of the HDP?
Our meetings with other Kurdistani parties in the coming days will have a significant impact on Kurdish unity and notions on Kurds
Such attempts existed before, especially based on the fact that we know that Kurdistani parties and HDP have a state issue. We have decided to visit these parties in the coming days, probably after our March 8 [International Women’s Day] activities. I want to say this – unity is important among Kurdish parties. In an era where national congress and Kurdish unity are discussed, I believe it is very important and meaningful to struggle together, though these parties may be small. Our meetings with other Kurdistani parties in the coming days will have a significant impact on Kurdish unity and notions on Kurds. Kurds should first establish unity among themselves. If this unity is established, no force or belief can intervene in our values. This issue is very significant and valuable. We had this attempt in the past and still have it.
The government’s package regarding changing election law is with the [elections] commission and in the coming days it will be discussed. How do you interpret this package, especially regarding election security?
Of course, in the last referendum in Turkey many violations were committed. We know clearly that the “No” vote won, but, because of corruption and changes, the “Yes” vote won. And despite having serious documents to prove this they were not taken into consideration. The “No” vote won because judges and judiciary institutions are not independent. Now [with this elections package] they [the AKP] want to legalize all these violations. We, as a party, will take serious steps against these violations. We also realize that not only our party members but also our supporters and voters have huge sensitivity to ballot box protection. We also know that our people will never abandon voting places. There will be preparations in this regard for the upcoming elections. We do not see the package, which legalizes corruption, as the right thing. This package is to make laws which will sustain [the current] government and revive the government and MHP agreement. I believe that this will be invalidated by our people.
Mrs Buldan, you were among the Imrali delegation for a long time. You met Mr Ocalan and state officials. You know well about the [peace] process. In your opinion, why did the peace process end?
We have talked about this a lot. I shall clearly say that the ending of the peace process was mainly because of the government’s hypocrisy. Even the name of the issue was not put correctly and the government did not hold a clear position. The government passed the three-year period as a dialogue process because, in the last meeting with Ocalan, they said there will be an observing committee in the next meeting because in Dolmabahce on February 28 there was an announcement and this announcement had to be discussed under the auspices of an observing committee. People discussed the observing committee a lot but the AKP’s government wanted to prevent [people from] trusting the HDP before June 7, and also the AKP fell into a position where it did not want to resolve the Kurdish question democratically. I believe that the peace process failed because of the AKP government’s hypocrisy, because of its lack of necessary steps, its talks, its stance on Ocalan. We know that since then Ocalan has not been allowed to meet anyone and now he is facing serious isolation. I want to briefly say that the reason behind the failure of the peace process is the AKP and its internal faults because, in his speech regarding the Dolmabahce Palace announcement, Mr Erdogan denied this picture and disregarded it. He made a speech where he said that he did not respect the announcement and the pictures, and he has stopped the peace process. This shows us that the AKP government is the reason behind the failure [of the process].
Some people say despite Erdogan’s opposition to the process it would continue if the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) did not resume its armed struggle. How fair is this stance?
I believe that the peace process failed because of the AKP government’s hypocrisy, because of its lack of necessary steps, its talks, its stance on Ocalan
I want to clearly say that if the AKP wanted the continuation of the process, Mr Ocalan would have to take different decisions because he [Ocalan] has asserted this in our last meeting, saying he would call on the PKK to disarm and [instead] hold a congress if there was an observing committee. The state and government officials know this very well. In all our meetings there were officials who represented the government and all these comments were recorded. The state and government know this and knowingly brought the process to this stage. The government is the reason behind this [failure of the peace process]. I know that the PKK would respond [positively] to Ocalan’s call because I did not only meet with the Imrali committee but also KCK officials in Qandil. Such a thing is not acceptable.
Is the peace process likely to resume?
Clearly, I have never been disappointed and I am one of those who believes in the resumption of [a peace] process because the Kurdish question is becoming harder and international, and the longer it lasts more people will die. It might be too early to say when and where it will resume but I believe it should resume as soon as possible and Ocalan’s isolation should be lifted as soon as possible. Both the government and the state know Mr Ocalan’s role in peace and the solution and his role in the democratization of Turkey. If the process resumes today I believe Ocalan will have the same position because he had perspectives for the democratization and freedom of this country for three years. In reference to those perspectives, I want to reassert that the state and government must bring about peace immediately. The day we were elected as new co-chairs [of the HDP], the Prime Minister [Binali Yildirim] said “There is no [peaceful] solution.” If a solution is not on the government’s agenda, then how will they govern a country? By crises and chaos, not by living and reviving. They want to govern this country through killings. I want to state that Turkey has to get out of this situation immediately.
Another important issue is the Afrin offensive. A month has passed since the beginning of Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch. What is the aim?
I do not know how possible it is for Turkey to fight off Syrian regime forces.
Now, of course, Afrin is not only for Kurds – there are other different religious and ethnic components. There are subjects like self-governance and the democratization process. Turkey is upset by the achievements of all Kurds around the world, not only those living in Turkey. The [Turkish] incursion is not to [secure the borders] of the area – we know this very well. They’re going [to Afrin] to oppose Kurdish achievements. We have to know that this step is against [Kurdish self-governance]. We see this clearly, especially because Turkey is stranded in Afrin. A great number of civilians have been killed and the corpses of Turkish soldiers have been returned to Turkey in the past 33-34 days. I want to say that Turkey has to get out of this deadlock immediately. They have to immediately give up this mistake. I believe there should be dialogues in this regard. Meeting with Kurds is possible, but if fighting goes on I believe that Turkey will face greater issues in the future and it will make Turkey’s work harder.
What do you think of the pro-Syrian government forces arriving in Afrin?
Pro-Syrian forces may have reached an agreement with Kurdish forces before entering there. It is not right to talk about details but I guess things will be clearer in the coming days. Turkey is looking for a way out and Syrian militants are on the border. I do not know how possible it is for Turkey to fight off Syrian regime forces. Syrian regime shall see [any Afrin] achievements as their own because the achievements belong to all Syrians. The Syrian regime shall not give the achievements to anyone. The Turkish position on the regime will be clear in the coming days but I do not expect any difference.
Do you think Turkey will enter into talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad?
It will enter into dialogue. Occasionally, Turkey uses some presidents and prime ministers according to their interests. Its approach to Assad will be like this. They [Turkey and Assad] were side by side in the past and they had agreements on everything. No, it [Turkey] sees it as an enemy. Therefore it’s possible they might sit together in the coming days. This is specific to Turkey. Turkey uses such a path in international issues. Its position has been so with neighboring countries as well. Maybe in this regard [relations with Assad] it will have such a position.
Erdogan says in the coming days Turkish forces will enter Afrin. What will happen? Is Turkey likely to achieve its aims?
I think the fall of Afrin downtown is not an easy thing. They have not entered there for the past 33-34 days. They said “we will get there in three days and clear it.” After their statements I do not think they will take such a step. I say it again that Turkey has to correct its mistake.
When we look at the four parts [of Kurdistan] we see that Kurds are going through a difficult stage. As you said, a national congress is significant for the sake of a united position. But despite all struggles such a congress has still not occurred. Why not? Will there be a special effort from you for such a congress?
Of course, it is very important for us. As HDP we previously made efforts and will keep making them. National congress is significant for the resolution of Kurdish issues. We have to put aside our internal issues and work [for the congress]. Kurdish unity in all four parts [of Kurdistan] will benefit Kurdish issues and will be a means of finding a positive international stance. Actually I believe that Kurdish unity will result in a very good international stance on the Kurds. They have to convene and act as soon as possible. I as [co-chair of the HDP] and as an individual … also Mr Ocalan … will work on national unity.