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TURKEY’S opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) opens its congress in Ankara tomorrow, calling for a widening of international solidarity as it faces unprecedented attacks and attempts at political genocide.
Striking a defiant tone, party spokesman Gunay Kubilay said the conference was an announcement that “HDP is here” and refuses to be intimidated by the detention and jailing of leading officials and other members.
The party warned of “political genocide against Kurds” following operations by the Turkish state to remove the directly elected mayors of Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van provinces last August.
Escalating attacks by the Turkish state have also seen the party targeted for opposing authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s war on Kurds in northern Syria, which he launched in October.
Yesterday, the Turkish parliament received a submission to lift the immunity from prosecution of 10 HDP MPs, including party co-chairs Sezai Temelli and Pervin Buldan, and bring charges against them.
Former co-chairs Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas have been behind bars since November 2016 and could face life sentences on trumped-up terrorism charges.
Hundreds of HDP supporters have been jailed. On February 13 and 14 alone, 117 people were detained in Ankara, Istanbul, Agri and Van, with the youth and women’s movements particularly targeted.
The HDP co-chair system, which guarantees gender equality at all levels of the party, has been branded “an act of terrorism” by a government that is trying to stop women participating in political life.
Members of 54 political parties from 26 countries are expected to participate in the congress, which has received “written and visual messages of support and solidarity from Australia to Ireland,” Mr Kubilay said.
More than 100 journalists have gained accreditation to report from the gathering, he added.
One of the main issues to be discussed at the congress is the struggle for Kurdish-language rights.
Events took place across the country today to mark Mother Tongue day, founded by the United Nations in 2000 to protect the languages of minorities.
Speaking Kurdish is “an act of resistance,” the Democratic Society Congress – a coalition of Kurdish organisations supporting autonomy and Kurdish rights – said, adding: “The struggle for language and culture is a struggle for life itself.”
Mr Kubilay called for international solidarity with the HDP, calling it the key to unlocking democracy in Turkey and stopping Mr Erdogan’s war and genocide against the Kurdish people.
“We welcome everyone who walks on the path of peace, democracy, freedom, rights, law and justice and invite them to be in solidarity with the HDP,” he said.
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