Supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) attend a 'Peace and Justice' rally in Istanbul on February 3, 2019. Photo: Yasin Akgul/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkey’s president said on Sunday that one of the country’s parties that stands in strongest opposition to his government is equal to an organization named a terror group by Ankara.
“HDP is equal to the PKK,” he said in an interview with TRT television. “It’s crystal clear.”
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is commonly described as pro-Kurdish because it has its roots in Kurdish political movements in Turkey, though it passed the threshold to enter the parliament because it also appeals to leftists across the country.
The party played a key role in peace talks between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) beginning in late 2012 that ushered in a temporary ceasefire to the decades-long conflict.
Then HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas was part of his party’s delegations who frequently visited jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan as part of the peace process.
The ceasefire ended in July 2015 and Demirtas is now in jail facing a potential 144 years behind bars on terror charges, accused of taking orders from the PKK. He has also been nominated
for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Many other HDP MPs are also in jail or facing charges related to ties to the PKK, as are hundreds of the party’s members and thousands of their supporters.
Erdogan’s comment will likely affect municipal elections taking place on March 31. HDP hopes to regain control of municipalities where elected officials were ousted on terror accusations and replaced by officials designated by Ankara.
HDP has not immediately responded to Erdogan’s assertion. Thousands of HDP supporters attended a rally in Istanbul on Sunday in support of hunger strikers who are protesting the prison conditions of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.
At least 4,247 people have been killed in clashes between security forces and the PKK since the ceasefire ended, including combatants on both sides of the conflict and civilians, according to figures from the International Crisis Group.