INTERVIEW BY OSMAN OĞUZ/HABER MERKEZİ, YENİ ÖZGÜR POLİTİKA:
Re-published from https://hdpenglish.wordpress.com/
We talked with HDP Co-Leader Selahattin Demirtaş about the attempted coup that took place on July 15.
What happened still needs a general definition. What was exactly was it we went through?
First of all, it is obvious that there has been an attempted military coup since the army undertook a military activity that extended up to bombing the parliament building in order to overthrow the government and seize the power of the parliament. That this is done by the army, by the force of arms requires that it be defined as an obvious coup attempt. Once it is defined different, it gets hard to address it.
However, the conditions under which the coup attempt was carried out, those who triggered the coup attempt, the position of the AKP government, these are actually things that needs to be defined because the current power is the power which is ruling via a civilian coup. Coup attempt of the putschists against putschists… If this is not precisely defined, the point cannot be made. Then, the position taken will also be wrong and such a mistake would play into the AKP’s hands under an “anti-coup” slogan.
It is necessary to take a clear-cut position against both pro-coup mindsets and a struggle accordingly should be carried out. It is a civilian coup to govern the society by means of an election that was held in the sequel of war, violence, bombing the cities and it is as much illegal as the coup forces that tried to overtake the power via military means, with tanks and guns.
We have already been resisting the AKP coup for more than one year. The AKP, who extorted the power since last year, cannot be acquitted just because a clique inside the army has just tried to usurp the power. We are against the coup principally; we put forward our position as such and say full stop. It is necessary to work up a policy based on a perspective that will not whitewash the coup done by the AKP as well. In our briefs, we have pointed out the need for a democracy league against both the pro-coup mindset inside the AKP and the pro-coup clique developing inside the army. The alternative is the democracy league because the forthcoming developments will determine the future of the country. Either the AKP will entirely go away and the forces of democracy will take the power or the AKP will make its own coup permanent by institutionalizing it, taking advantage of this military coup attempt.
How could this coup clique believe that their attempt would be successful? In whom or what did they trust?
It is unknown. A coup clique that has no political support is probably the first to come out in the world. It has been said that the coup was held without leaning on some alternative political frontier. There is only one thing that I know: it is by no means a clique that relies on the HDP or the forces that the HDP represents. That is the only thing that we are sure of. However, did the clique have any contacts with other political powers or was the coup planned through some other political forces? We cannot know this. It might get clear in the coming weeks or months. Yet in Turkey someone always has an understanding that hopes for help from a coup. There has always been a pro-coup mindset that believes that no force except the army can consolidate democracy in the country but I cannot know with whom such people have political relationships.
Mr Ocalan warned Erdoğan many times. He was saying “Tell him, he doesn’t understand, he is acting like an idiot.” He continually warned him, saying “I could keep him alive by maintaining the resolution process. Once the process is over, the coup mechanics will step in and then he would end up just like Morsi”.
Did you anticipate such a coup attempt prior to this one? Had you received any speculations or did you foresee such a thing?
Of course making such a prediction would be hard but during the interviews in İmralı, Mr. Öcalan described the coup mechanics and properly illustrated it with historical examples. He very well explained how the so-called coup mechanics works in Turkey. Thus, he envisaged that the coup mechanics would be implemented once the resolution process was over. And in that regard, he warned Erdoğan many times. He was saying “Tell him, he doesn’t understand, he is acting like an idiot.” He continually warned him, saying “I could keep him alive by maintaining the resolution process. Once the process is over, the coup mechanics will step in and then he would end up just like Morsi”.
How did the coup mechanics practically activate after the peace process was over?
Yes, we could notice and very well understood those coup mechanics during those discussions. When the process was over, the so-called coup mechanics were already in function somehow. The war against Kurds, the destruction in Kurdistan, the effort of the army to take the initiative again, Erdoğan’s giving of his store away to the army, his resigning of his power to the army, his proposal of alliance to the nationalist-fascist block and his surrendering of his will to that block on a large scale, his almost doing everything that this block wants just to win the war against Kurds have been actually the signs of the coup mechanics in function.
Did the Turkish State Bloc, which was formed as a consequence of the war against Kurds, lead this?
The General Staff had gotten all the promises from Erdogan before entering the city battles. That is to say, the presidential system would be given up, and at most there would be presidency with political parties, Erdogan would give up the idea of seizing all the powers of the state by himself; he would pass the law of impunity and there would be no way back to negotiations during the resolution process. Such promises were made and thus the army started fighting in cities.
If you remember, it was mentioned in the beginning that this was a war of the Palace and people were reacting strongly against Erdogan at the funerals of soldiers and police officers. The army also doubted fighting in the cities and delivered an opinion on not entering the cities. For the first time tanks entered the city in Silvan and in a short time they removed the battle tanks, the army told Erdogan that it would not enter the city. After that, Erdogan surrendered his will to them in order to make an agreement with the army and make the army fight in the cities and enter the cities with battle tanks and guns.
International relations and mechanisms also started to put pressure on Erdogan, thus leaving him gasp for air.
This was completely the coup mechanics that Mr. Öcalan defined. It was working perfectly. As long as peace and agreement were not made and an alliance was not formed with Kurds, war against Kurds triggered the coup mechanism just like a wound clock when the time comes.
In this case, you should not be surprised at the attempted coup, right?
No, I’m not surprised. We were expecting such a process but of course it was impossible for us to guess, predict or provide intelligence about the coup. However, we were not shocked when it happened because it was openly approaching. How this would take place was only a mystery. Would it be a postmodern coup like February 28 (1997), or would the army complete the coup by seizing Erdogan step by step via implicitly enduring the government as the army slowly gains the war initiative in the field? That was not known. Nevertheless, it was also known that there was not only one clique in the army. Communitarian, chauvinist, nationalist, Americanist structures have been separating into cliques. It is not possible to say that these groups agree among themselves 100% and agree with Erdogan.
It was known that there was tension before the Military Council and that there were disagreements before the appointments. Some were to be put out of the picture whereas others were not. The Military Council was very important this year. Each Military Council in the recent years has been very important but this years’ Military Council was historical for them. It was expected that the tension would rise. However, no one was expecting this to turn into an attempted coup.
After the coup attempt, did anyone from the government call you or try to make contact with you?
No, nobody did. Our colleagues exchanged information but nobody from the government made contact.
What will happen next? For example, can there be a change of politics about the Kurdish war? Can peace be on the agenda? Or will the politics of violence continue to increase?
Of course this depends on the attitude that will be adopted by Erdogan and the AKP wing. In fact, an opportunity showed up. Mr. Öcalan, during the negotiations, perpetually talked about the parallel structure in the government. “This pro-coup mindset has always been an obstacle to resolution” he warned. If this pro-coup mindset will really be dissolved and if we have reached a point where civil politics and the resolution of Kurdish problem will not be approached provocatively; if Erdogan really pays attention to Mr. Öcalan’s warnings, a healthy and lasting process towards peace might continue. Ultimately, the weakening of the pro-coup mindset and the pro-coup tradition in the army, civil life, judiciary, and bureaucracy is for the benefit of democracy. However, since there is another pro-coup mindset like AKP against us, a real understanding of democracy will not arise.
What is required for a development in a different direction?
This can turn out to be an opportunity if Erdoğan comes to his senses and those around him have the least cleverness to realize the magnitude of the danger and that the coup mechanics haven’t disappeared and comprehend that the coup threat does not come to an end as long as the Kurdish question is not resolved in peace; an institutional democracy and a libertarian constitution is not in action. Yet I think this is a very small probability because the AKP has always used such opportunities in favor of consolidating, strengthening its own power, not in favor of democracy. [Negotiations with the] European Union, ceasefire, the guerrillas’ withdrawal process [withdrawal from the Turkish borders], the AKP tried to benefit from all these.
The election results on 7 June 2015 was indeed an opportunity for democratization and reconciliation and the AKP didn’t want to use it, either. AKP wanted to strengthen itself again by an instrumentalization of war towards the next elections on 1 November 2015.
That is to say, there exists an opportunity to commence a new democracy move upon a failed coup attempt; however, the AKP is not a party capable of doing such a thing and Erdoğan is not a leader capable of doing it, either. Therefore, instead of being in an expectation of AKP and Erdoğan, the tension will increase at each step since the crowds that were poured into the streets by Erdoğan are not in a struggle for democracy or something. The prime minister is talking about some kind of rejoicing but this has simply been a festival of some reactionists.
Several circles are telling that there is a movement in the streets, which is worrying and about to commit lynching…
Yes, a pro-ISIS mind, pro-ISIS groups, including those from HÜDA-PAR [an Islamic political party organized in Northern Kurdistan], AKP, all the religious, reactionist groups are doing a tour de force in the squares and are displaying what they understand from democracy as well. They do not want to see anyone even as citizens. Especially during the coup attempt, you have seen even what they did to the poor, innocent buck privates. Up until yesterday, those who were shouting “martyrs are immortal, homeland is united” when those private soldiers died at war are now lynching and torturing those soldiers, cutting their throats.
In that regard, this reactionist group is a major threat, let alone being promising for democracy. It is necessary to afford a struggle against them as well because they will get more impudent and free-wheeling in all the fields. In all the fields they will try to act more recklessly. They might hold lynching campaigns against Kurds, Alevites, leftists, progressive forces; they may even attempt massacres since they will be feeling themselves much stronger from now on. This will be a delusion of them but they are not capable of realizing their own delusions. This reactionist mindset is bereft of any historical analysis; bereft of doing correct political evaluations; bereft of understanding the inner equilibria of the society. A mindset that has no idea of all these thinks that it can change everything based solely on brute force.
In fact, the coup attempt has been disabled thanks to the fellow stance of all the political parties including us. Of course, we didn’t do this to support AKP but AKP will try to evaluate it like that and will want to take the advantage of it. Yet if they were a bit ethical and smart, AKP would realize how invaluable the anti-coup stance of the HDP and Kurdish Freedom Movement is. They would direct toward democratization and reform, deducing that we do this not for themselves. But they don’t have such a mind.
Such an extensive war is still going on, but not even a single guerrilla of the Kurdish movement shot even a single bullet that night. The guerrillas did not take sides with putschists. Kurdish people did not take sides with putschists.
What was the counter stance of the Kurdish Freedom Movement against the coup?
Erdogan has been accusing the Kurdish movement of plotting against him together with the parallel structures. He is trying to explain the termination of the cease-fire with this view. This coup attempt clearly demonstrated that it is not the case. Kurdish movement showed no act of crudeness during the hours the coup attempt was in practice. This should be noted in history books. Such an extensive war is still going on, but not even a single guerrilla of the Kurdish movement shot even a single bullet that night. The guerrillas did not take sides with putschists. Kurdish people did not take sides with putschists. Kurdish guerillas could have taken advantage of this attempt and penetrated into several cities. But this would be playing into the hands of putschists. Kurdish movement did not choose between two pro-coup mentalities, demonstrating an honorable stance, persistent in the peoples’ struggle for democracy. But mindsets such as Erdogan’s do not have the capacity to understand this honorable stance.
We have to be prepared for a tougher challenge in any case. We need to be prepared for a much more difficult struggle in all areas. Erdogan and his mentality has been conducting “bag operations” since they have come into power. In KCK operations they have arrested thousands and then announced to have arrested tons of wrong people. Later in Ergenekon operations, it was the same. In operations against the Gulenist community, they are arresting random people. Now upon the coup attempt AKP is again arresting or dismissing anyone who they see as a threat. There is no room for justice or equity in Erdogan’s world. Now, all opposition sections who seem to be opposing Erdogan shall be tried and purged from the army and the jurisdiction. This requires attention. Putschists of course should be put to trial, arrested, and put to account before the law. But in disguise of anti-coup operations, opposition sections might be further oppressed, TV channels and news media might be closed. These all require further attention. We should not remain silent against unjustly policies toward innocent circles.
And of course, organizing the people in the meantime is a must.
But how? A confusion is common both in the Kurdish society and the democracy front. In short, what can be done to interfere in the process?
The coup attempt is so recent and it is still not entirely under control. There are still missing helicopters and army commanders whose locations are unknown. Their whereabouts is not certain. Therefore, Erdogan and his front-line are still nervous. Apparently the coup is not entirely quelled. The systematic and broad part of the coup is stopped, but its focal points are not pinpointed. As far as we can see, this is the picture. The society is also somewhat uneasy. Of course the society is against the putschists, but the crowds the AKP is letting out on the streets are performing reactionist demonstrations, and bear resemblance with jihadists, ISIS members, and so the broader society cannot demonstrate their anti-coup stance on the streets and squares. Only the crowds organized as mobs by AKP are flooding into the squares.
We should not leave the public space in the hands of those reactionist mobs. We should take the squares, saying “neither the palace coup, nor the military coup,” “there is no option but democracy,” and take to the streets against all putschist mentalities.
Of course the waters will clear in a couple of days. We should not leave the public space in the hands of those reactionist mobs. We should take the squares, saying “neither the palace coup, nor the military coup,” “there is no option but democracy,” and take to the streets against all putschist mentalities. Because streets are legitimate. AKP takes advantage of this when it is about their gain, and when it is not, they try and block the streets, terrorize the streets. We should not fall for this plot, this oppression by AKP anymore. One thing is clear now: The streets are not legitimate only for AKP. When the opposition takes to the streets in the future, if AKP tries to oppress and overwhelm the streets, everyone should remind AKP of the legitimacy of the streets.
Lynching is common on the streets; poor buck privates are being slaughtered. Erdogan does not mention any one of them. Please remember, when we have called the people to the squares for the Resistance of Kobanê, we did not call for violence, and 48 HDP member were murdered among a total of 55 people. AKP tried to put even this blame on us. Today, they are lynching people on live television, they are killing young, innocent conscripts who were drafted by the force of mandatory military duty, while the Prime Minister calls it a “festival of democracy” and the President of the Republic calls it “the right to demonstrate.” The people should watch out for them. If these mobs keep ruling the country and strengthen themselves, their desire is to lynch whomever. They would like to rule with this mentality and we need to take the streets to stop them feel this false power.
Everyone needs to watch out. Kurdish neighborhoods, Alevi neighborhoods, and leftists may turn into targets. Everyone has the right to necessary defense against any such attack. In case of such a situation, a power of legitimate resistance is required to be organized to act regardless of who is assaulted.
So you foresee a threat of lynchings and massacres?
AKP may direct those masses, those groups to attack certain neighborhoods. Everyone needs to watch out. Kurdish neighborhoods, Alevi neighborhoods, and leftists may turn into targets. Everyone has the right to necessary defense against any such attack. In case of such a situation, a power of legitimate resistance is required to be organized to act regardless of who is assaulted.
We are going through critical days and hours. The coup is not entirely avoided. Other cliques too, may take action for a coup. AKP is abusing social sensitivities, provoking them, trying to take our anti-coup stance for a political yield, and this might trigger other social movements as well. We have no other option than being well organized and careful, ready for anything.
Lightly edited for clarity in English