‘HDP can help solve Kurdish problem in a democratic way’: Green campaigner Sevil Turan

By a KT Correspondent in Istanbul:

Sevil Turin

Sevil Turan (Pic: Twitter)

While the pro-Kurd Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) hopes to make big gains in Sunday’s local elections in the region Kurds call north Kurdistan, in western Turkey BDP supporters are backing a new party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which aims to unite Kurds and other oppressed nationalities and groups. Nine BDP MPs have transferred to the HDP and a total of 25 organisations, mostly leftist groups, have signed up. The HDP hopes to capitalise on discontent with a government that is increasingly authoritarian towards not only Kurds but the whole population. In his desperation to halt a tide of corruption revelations, prime minister Erdogan has tried to ban Twitter and, today, You Tube.

Last year’s huge anti-government protests began as a modest environmental movement by Istanbullus wanting to save Gezi park, a green space in the city centre, from developers. Erdogan ordered a harsh police crackdown that lit the flames of a wider revolt that lives on in rebel hearts.

One of the HDP’s affiliates is the Green and Left Future Party, itself a new party established last winter and claiming 600 founding members. Sevil Turan, a well-known Green activist and the party’s co-spokesperson, has a measured enthusiasm for the HDP project. “Our platform is human rights and nature rights and the HDP shares a similar perspective”, she says.

“This is a new democratic platform, and it can play an important part in solving the Kurdish problem in a democratic way. This is the first time Kurds and the social movements are trying to do something together”.

“Turkey needs more democracy, with strong local government to replace the centralism where Ankara decides everything”.

In some Black Sea towns, the HDP has faced violent attacks. Sevil says it was able to campaign openly at first but has now been forced off the streets in those areas. “This was the work of outsiders, not local people”, she says. However, there is hope in Hopa, a Georgian border town, where the HDP may take the mayoral position from the CHP, Turkey’s main opposition party.

The Green and Left Future Party is standing for eight mayoral positions on the HDP ticket, but Sevil is not predicting an electoral breakthrough. “This is just a beginning”, she says.”The votes are not so important in this election. We want to change the way of politics”.

Part of that change, she says, lies in the inclusive and participatory structures of her party and the HDP.

“The HDP is in favour of alternative politics. We have a 50 per cent quota for women candidates and they are selected locally, unlike the CHP which has a 30 per cent quota for women candidates chosen by the party leadership. We have a woman co- president and women everywhere are doing their own politics”.

“The HDP also supports LGBT rights and this has encouraged the emergence of LGBT groups in the more conservative eastern Turkey”.

Sevil believes the peace process has created an opening for Turks who want to support Kurds. “We are on the side of peaceful politics. It is easier to support the Kurdish issue now than five years ago when people said there is a war and you have to support our side”.

“Laws need to change and the constitution needs to change. The peace process can work if the government makes this change”.

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