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A letter on the referendum: Demirtas encourages ‘open’ talk between leaders

By Rudaw 24/9/2017
Kurdish President Masoud Barzani welcomed HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas to Erbil in September 2016. Photo: HDP/Twitter
Kurdish President Masoud Barzani welcomed HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas to Erbil in September 2016. Photo: HDP/Twitter
Selahattin Demirtaş penned a letter from Edirne prison ahead of the Kurdistan Region’s referendum on independence. The imprisoned co-leader of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) notes previous Kurdish leaders who have various times have given their lives or freedom for the Kurdish struggle. He calls on current Kurdish political leaders to stand together and “no longer continue” disputes when it risks steps towards independence.

Demirtaş calls Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Region, “a respectful and honorable Kurdish leader.” Demirtas’ letter was written prior to a session attended by a majority of the Kurdistan Region’s MPs on September 15, when they voted to support the High Referendum Council’s referendum plans. The parliament hadn’t convened for two years because of internal political disputes. Demirtas says reactivation of parliament strengthens “democracy” and “international legitimacy.”

The Kurdistan Region is scheduled to hold its own referendum on independence on Monday. Electoral commission officials have stated more than 5 million people in total are eligible to participate; however, the referendum only applies to the Kurdistan Region, also known as Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurds refer to Kurdistan’s four parts by their cardinal directions: Bakur in the Turkish north, Bashur in the Iraqi south, Rojhelat to the east in Iran, Rojava in the Syrian west.

Towards the referendum of Bashur:

Then ruling nations’ Sykes–Picot Agreement and the Qasr-e Shirin practically divided the geography of Kurdistan. Heavy prices were paid over the past century for these divisions and invasions.

Following the division of the Ottoman Empire in the beginning of the 20th century, the Kurds were plundered just like a colony after they couldn’t build a state for themselves.

They were viewed as worthy of mass murder, assault and humiliation. Reminding you of all these tragic realities is surely not necessary. The Kurds stood against all these policies of injustice and invasion. They bravely fought against these practices, paid a heavy price in doing so and managed to step in the 21st century.

The Kurdish endeavors on their own territory for freedom have become an encouragement for the region and the greater world. The Kurds have now become a hope and a leader to all the oppressed nations in the Middle East.

From the immortal Mullah Mustafa Barzani to the martyred Qazi Mohammed, from Abdullah Ocelan to Jalal Talabani and Masoud Barzani, the field endeavors of all the Kurdish leaders were for the establishment of an independent state for the Kurdish nation.

Changes in the world have been happening quickly while the Kurds have been continuing their age-old endeavors for independence. They [the world states] will surely not stop the world from progressing until the Kurds establish their state and then say let’s all progress together.

Concepts like ‘nation, state, democracy, freedom, community, individual, economy, diplomacy, army, war, peace, education, health, women, nature, border, security, power, liberty and other related concepts’ have now lost their meaning.

Continuing these endeavors for Kurdistan’s independence has paved the way to confront a reality like this.

The start and end of endeavors for independence have not been the same in the history of the world. Many changes and developments have happened in the tens of thousands of years of the history of humanity. Leaders and representatives of the Kurdish nation can improve their vision of creating a horizon for the future in light of this reality.

The long-overdue independence and liberation of Kurdistan shouldn’t take the model and meaning of the last century. Rather, it should be built on the basis of the most developed model and understanding of the future century. Just like all the other world nations, the Kurdish nation deserves this too, and they will succeed in doing so.

In this historic stage, it is clear that no Kurdistani party is against endeavors for an independent Kurdistan. The current arguments between supporters and opponents of independence should no longer continue. Kurdish movements should eliminate these differences. These multiple tiresome positions benefit no party.

Respect and criticism

Like the rest of the world nations, the Kurdish nation on their own land have the right to determine their own fate, and it is the people who decide how to use this right. As a result of the experience and efforts of hundreds of years, the human rights agreement became a norm, and one needs to be a fascist not to respect this norm. The basis of Kurdish parties and movements is not like this. Independence for the Kurdish nation is as halal as mother’s milk. Everyone should respect the decision that the Kurdish nation has collectively made.

In addition, what we should take seriously is the concerns and suggestions that the Kurdish people and parties shouldn’t ignore. The basis of these concerns is that the century-long endeavors, the chance for independence might be lost because the model, concept, power, relations and agreements which have been worked upon in the model of the last century might put the Kurds in a difficult situation facing threats, that the process is being continued without regarding these friendly proposals.

The parliament should be active

The aim of the criticisms and suggestions we have presented to the federal region of Kurdistan and its people, is to strengthen and support agreement otherwise we will not put ourselves in their position and will not decide on their behalf and will not give them a mind.

Presenting these suggestions is our duty and right in terms of politics, history and morality. If the federal region of Kurdistan reactivates its parliament, renews and strengthens elections, if the referendum is decided by the parliament, this will strengthen democracy and will increase international legitimacy. The whole nation will protect the result too.

It is clear that shutting down the parliament for two years, not holding elections, barring the speaker of the parliament and opposition MPs from returning to the capital is unwelcome and not reassuring.

The national congress

Especially my brothers from south Kurdistan should restore the local parliament and its authority. This is a necessity. The national congress will be an important support too so that steps are taken until the independence state in the right way such that it reassures the future.

The Kurdistan Region is taking steps for independence, it should take the steps it does with a united national spirit through this congress. Diplomacy, economy, administration models, health, education, agriculture, culture, art, justice and its civil society should all be organized within the framework of national policy and all parties and movements should commit to them.


Decisions made should be enforced with a spirit of common protection, common diplomatic force and common economic force. We think this is in favor of the Kurdistan Region. All these different identities and beliefs in Kurdistan should take part in this congress as they are.


We are aware that the Kurdistan Region concurrently with the people of Catalonia in Spain have entered the referendum stage for independence. If we notice, we see that all the work for the referendum, the Catalonian parliament and more than 600 mayors are running them. The Catalonia region and Kurdistan Region cannot be compared in terms of sociology and politics. But it is useful as a contemporary example.


It is also important to say that the KDP is a movement, party which has strong roots in Kurdistan. Led by Mullah Mustafa, the people of Kurdistan and Peshmerga will always protect their dignity.


Masoud Barzani has got his inheritance and is continuing his endeavors, he is a respectful and honorable Kurdish leader. There is no doubt he works with good intentions to protect the achievements of the Kurds. I believe if he and his party gives support and strength to national shared work, if the parliament is reactivated and put to serve the referendum, it will be good if they take friendly suggestions and criticisms.


These suggestions will lose neither their strength nor respect. On the contrary, they increase respect and strength on the part of the people. They will not be the cause for losing the chance to hold the referendum too. They will create conditions under which stronger steps will be taken.


The federal region of Iraq and the west will face important historic developments in the coming years and months. Abdullah Ocalan has good ideas regarding the future one hundred years of democratic life, the democratic community, nation and democracy, democratic power models, perspectives and suggestions.


While Kurdistan is taking steps toward independence, during the process, to achieve the strong democracy worthy of the people of Kurdistan, we should be open to all opinions without using improper ethics or accusing each other. We should talk.


The result of this endeavor for the Kurds and other nations will be good. I believe all the politicians of Kurdistan, parties, movements, I invite them to gather around national shared work. 


I have heartfelt greetings to our people in south Kurdistan and the northern nation, Rojava, east, and Kurdish diaspora. We will continue our support for people and our brothers.

Selahattin Demirtaş
September 16, 2017


Nezan | 24/9/2017
What is it you reall want express mr. demirtas? Is it a support for referendum or an effort to convey ocalan's non sensical model no one knows what it is. If u are so democratic you should stopped the barricade war the pkk staged two years ago that ended disastrously killing thousand of young Kurdish men and women. Did you discuss it in your party? No, you did not. You lack the courage to talk About it. Before giving democracy lessons to the Iraqi Kurds you need to give them to the pkk. Then I would deem your thoughts important. Otherwise, it is just a joke noted in history. By the way, we all know the kurdis history very well. Cut to the chase and state your opinion without the historical background--- please.
Muraz Adzhoev | 24/9/2017
His "so called "pro-Kurdish" theoretical instructions, to put it mildly, are of no significance to be perceived by those who are much more sincere, skilled and true to the real national problems, goals, tasks and interests of the Kurdish people. The Congress will be held when the statehood of an independent Kurdistan will be institutionalized and established. Of course there will be no place at and in the Kurdish Natiinal Congress (socio-political and cultural organization) for the "falcon-provocateurs" of the PKK-PYD "revolutionary" anti-Kurdish opportunistic leadership.
View | 24/9/2017
Agree! Always brilliant Mr Demirtas, a true democrat!

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