HDP MP: Peace process must continue even if it takes 12 years – Interview with Ahmet Yildirim


RUDAW  29 June 2016 – Ahmet Yildrim was the first Member of Parliament to be summoned for questioning by the public prosecutor after the Turkish parliament lifted immunity from MPs of the Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP). Yildrim, 44, believes that the order to appear before the prosecutor is a political act and that he is only answerable to the people who voted for him not the courts.  “If our trial ends the conflict then each MP is willing to spend ten years in prison,” he told Rudaw in an interview. Yildirim believes that his HDP parties is still pursing the same policies of peace and end to the conflict but that the Turkish state has reversed to the pre-1990s military era instead. This HDP MP says that if Turkey quits its old phobia of the Kurds, there will be a chance for peace and genuine coexistence between the Kurds and Turks that will make both sides strong in the Middle East.

Rudaw: You say you are not going to appear in court, but why is it then that you and another MP are preparing a defense case already?

We will not appear before the public prosecutor in which case he may put us on trial and in order to be ready for any questioning we are putting together a defense case. When they start investigating our case our message will be that lifting MPs’ immunity is a political case. If our political work leads to court then the people we need to address are not in the courts. I’ve become a politician with people’s vote and if I’ve any mistakes it is political mistakes. Therefore it is the next elections and people’s votes that can put me on trial not the courts. I haven’t killed anyone, I haven’t torched anyone’s home and I haven’t banned anyone’s language. I haven’t resorted to the use of violence. The MPs of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) keep saying that if they’ve made mistakes why did people vote for them. In that case, I say, well people voted for us too. The municipality heads the government now wants to remove from their posts have won 80-90 percent of the votes. If people’s vote can protect an MP from trial, then it is not only for the AKP, but for us all.

Do you think this process will lead to imprisonment?

I hope it doesn’t get to that because it won’t serve peace and democracy. When in 1994 DP MPs were dragged to court, did it solve the problem? No, their votes increased instead. If we’re imprisoned today it will only be our bodies in prison. They won’t be able to imprison our beliefs. I believe that our movement gets stronger by our belief in peace and democracy and those who put us on trial will only enter the dark pages of history.

So you mean lifting immunity from MPs is backtracking to the 1990s?

Lifting immunity and threats of imprisonment is reversing Turkey back to even the pre-1990s. If this was not true then why is Turkey repeating the practices of those years? Erdogan’s party is reversing to the governments of Tanso Ciler and Mehmet Agir. Back then the war was in the mountains and neither of the two ever destroyed homes inside the cities or bring tanks into the streets.

In last year’s June elections HDP won many votes not only in the Kurdish areas but across Turkey. But in the last year the party has been ineffective. What went wrong?

As HDP we are still where we were last year. Nothing has changed. What has changed is the state and state power. We are saying what said back then but the fact is that we are under a media embargo. We are under censorship. In the past journalists would line up before our offices to get our views but not it is not the case anymore. We used to stress on the importance of the peace process and we are saying the same today. But all efforts are being made to make sure our voice and message will not get out. When the AKP realized the HDP is growing by the talk of peace it decided to return to war.
The war itself in undoubtedly between the state and the PKK. We are not saying that only side must silence their guns. We ask this of both sides. Guns must not be used to get the Kurdish people’s rights. We believe the peace process must continue even if it takes twelve years. Let the peace process continue as long as it prevents the death and murder of our youth.

Erdogan wants to remove and suspend heads of municipalities on charges of terrorism links. What do you think of this?

I don’t think this is right. Among 2,200 municipalities the people he is after have been vetted and backgrounds checked more than anyone else. Their expenses and budgets investigated more than anyone else’s. Despite many inquiries in Diyarbakir, Sirnak, Van and other areas nothing illegal was found. If any municipality has illegally sent money anywhere there is no need for the courts for the HDP itself will punish them.

How far will this go do you think?

The HDP has a total of 98 municipalities and of that number 30 percent of them have been suspended or removed. They are threatening us with this kind of act and replacement of our people and none of the cases is about bribery or embezzlement. It is rather for their political ideas. They have been removed because they’ve asked for democratic autonomy and that the European Union laws on this autonomy must be implemented.

The political opposition in Turkey doesn’t appear to have been successful. Do you think a social opposition may rise to fill the gap?

In Turkey there is a gap of social opposition. But in the history of the Turkish republic there hasn’t been any democracy. The army and security forces have practiced utmost pressure on civil society. In this environment as political opposition we haven’t played our role fully either. Had we done what was expected of us there wouldn’t be a war today. All the channels and media outlets have been closed to us and we are censored, but I would still say that we haven’t done our job properly.

And a wise social opposition must enter the scene too. Turkey is now at a crossroads. One side the opposition must be active and on the other the state must change its ways and attitude. If this does not happen, I will tell you that a disintegration will take place. If the Kurds separate from Turkey the rest of Turkey will not stand on its feet and a nightmare will come. This is something we are trying to prevent from happening.
Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava) is on the course to making for itself some kind of entity. How will this reflect on Northern Kurdistan?

Look at six million people in Iraqi Kurdistan, they are demanding independence and Rojava which is only two million is moving from cantons to an autonomous entity. With all this happening, it is time to recognize a status for the Kurds of the north who make up the largest numb, and their rights guaranteed in the constitution. Because of Rojava the peace process was aborted and therefore that is where the solution may lie. Salih Muslim came to Turkey several times and said don’t make us resort to Turkey and US for ‘we are after something that will be beneficial to us all,’ When ISIS attacked Kobani there were no police or army, so what could the Kurds do other than defend themselves. Self-defense is for the Kurds of Rojava an absolute right and in that they have the sympathy of the Kurds of Turkey.

Has what is happening in Rojava changed Turkey’s view of the Kurds?

I believe in a formula that would benefit the Turks and Kurds of Rojava but in order for this to work the 100-year old phobia of the Kurds must end first. Kurds in the Middle East have now achieved major power and turn things around. Any country that cooperates with the Kurds will succeed. If Turkey quits its phobia of the Kurds will rise and be strong in the Middle East. Its political and military power will grow and it will stand firm in the face of the Western world. www.mesop.de