There might be differences of opinion in the HDP over issues but never a split
Demirtas answers the questions and shares his thoughts, from the Labor and Freedom Alliance to the Table of Six, from LGBTI+ rights to class struggle, from neoliberal policies to the economic program of the Left, from the period between June 7 and November 1, 2015 to the Imrali negotiations, from Ocalan to the HDP and many other crucial issues in the second part of our interview.
15- OZLEM GURSES (TV OZ - Youtube)
Mr. Demirtas, on November 12, 2021, your wife Basak Demirtas shared on Twitter a photo of the two of you during a visit to you, along with a note that read, "Just met with our 'president' in prison." Your party, the HDP, has not provided any comment or appreciation for this photo or its message. Today, there may appear to be a "vacuum" between your statements and those of the party leadership, as if you have not made any statement at all. What do you think this is due to? Is there any reaction or aloofness towards you within the HDP? Would the HDP actually nominate you as a candidate if it will come to it? Or, on the contrary, would they want you to make "less" noise?
Your questions are pertinent, Ms. Ozlem, but you can only find the answers to them at HDP headquarters. It is true that we have some disagreements, but the HDP is a multicomponent and multicultural party that has always opened spaces for discord. We don't share the exact same thoughts on any subject. This was also the case when I was out and was co-chairman.
Therefore, the fact that there are differences of opinion in the HDP over an issue does not mean a rift or split, as is often the case in other parties. On the contrary, it means that many different opinions and minds are represented, which is a strength, and not a weakness at all. The HDP is such a multifarious party, and this is one of the main sources of its strength. Let me sum it up in one sentence: in the HDP, sometimes there may be disagreements on various issues, but there has never been a split. It is all those differences that make us who we are. And I proudly consider myself a good HDP member. And again, I welcome criticism with respect and make efforts to address it.
I HAVE NOT NEGOTIATED WITH EITHER THE OPPOSITION OR THE RULING PARTY DURING MY TIME IN PRISON, AND I NEVER WILL
16- HILMI HACALOGLU (VOA)
You have been in prison for almost six years. Even though you are behind bars, you remain to be one of the most powerful actors in Turkish politics. I could see the effectiveness of your words among the young people I spoke to in Hakkari just two weeks ago. Do the upcoming elections give you hope and expectations for a new era in Turkey in which the pressure on democracy is greatly reduced, if not ended? You have stated that the elections should be concluded by running a common candidate in the first round. In the letter you have sent this month, do you see the risk of the elections going to a second round, and how can that risk be avoided?
I am hopeful about the elections and firmly believe that change will come through struggle. The HDP has already announced its principles to ensure the victory of a common candidate in the first round of the elections. It is not difficult to win the election in the first round when this option is adopted.
17- REYHAN HACIOGLU (Yeni Yasam)
At the so-called Table of Six of the Nation Alliance, the Kurdish question is persistently sidestepped. Would the program of such an alliance find resonance in society at the polls? And regardless of their stance, your occasional statements were seen as an endorsement of this alliance. This even goes as far as rumors of a bargain. What do you have to say about this?
Some parties of the Table of Six occasionally comment with a few sentences on the Kurdish question, but the Table of Six as a body has not yet offered a word on the resolution of the Kurdish question. This is a very serious shortcoming, but it is up to them to decide whether they want to address this shortcoming or not. Personally, I would like them to be daring and realistic on this issue. Such a resolution program is bound to come from the Labor and Freedom Alliance.
As for my statements, they would be better understood if they were perceived as an effort to motivate and encourage as well as to open the doors to dialogue, rather than as an affirmation or endorsement of someone or something. Your reference to bargaining is not entirely clear, but if by that you meant that I myself might be bargaining with them, I want everyone to know very clearly that I have not "bargained" with either the opposition or the ruling party during my time in prison, and that I never will. In fact, I have not had the slightest direct or indirect contact with the ruling party. Negotiations are natural and legitimate in politics, but they are conducted by the HDP leadership, not by me. I would like to be heard personally on these matters. The rest will be speculative and lead to false and misleading conclusions.
YOU CANNOT SIMPLY SAY, "WE WILL SEND REFUGEES AWAY, WE WILL GET RID OF THEM"
18- EVRIM KEPENEK (Bianet)
CHP Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu announced that in the event of an election victory, Syrian refugees in particular would be sent back to their countries as part of a four-step plan. Refugees are also instrumentalized by the current government at the expense of European states as well as for domestic politics. There is a social perception that holds refugees accountable for the economic and social inequalities in the country, even if they were not created by refugees in the first place. Can you offer a refugee policy that will accommodate both the refugees and the Turkish population?
The HDP has an active commission working on this issue. They have organized conferences, panels, workshops, reported on the results and developed very concrete proposals for solutions in favor of the oppressed, the minority, justice and equality. It is not possible for me to incorporate these reports and proposals into an answer to your question, but in summary, I can say that all the basic human rights of the people and communities who have been forced to migrate and become refugees must be guaranteed and the relevant solution must be considered as part of a regional peace policy and dealt with in a national framework. One cannot simply say, "We will send them away, we will get rid of them".
OCALAN HAD PREDICTED AT IMRALI THAT WE WOULD BE PUT ON TRIAL IF THE PROCESS WAS NOT LEGALLY SECURED AND DID NOT LEAD TO A LASTING PEACE.
19- ALICAN ULUDAG (DW Turkish)
The main axis of the accusations against you in the case in which you are being tried under arrest are your speeches and actions during the resolution process. Let's take, for example, your photo taken in Qandil. And you also participated in the Imrali meetings during that period. Was it the decision of the state delegation to go up to Qandil and take that photo? Did the issue of "persecution" come up in your meetings with the state delegation during that time in case the process collapsed one day? Did anyone from the state delegation or from you bring up this issue?
The warden of the prison personally took the photos in Imrali, and delivered them to the Ministry of Justice himself. The warden even had a traffic accident on the way there, which he narrowly escaped. The photos were inside his bag, which he held tightly in his hand after the accident. We received the photos from none other than the Minister of Justice himself, on a USB stick labeled Republic of Turkey Ministry of Justice. The state knew about the photo taken in Kandil as well.
Naturally, this was all done under legal guarantees. However, today I am not only immorally prosecuted for these photos, but also lynched in the pool media. Ocalan had predicted that we would be put on trial if the process was not legally secured and did not lead to a lasting peace, and he had expressed this when we were in Imrali.
Have a look at this photo taken immediately after the accident. The report in Hurriyet daily on the same day reads: "It was noteworthy that Duzman, who has been in the closest contact with Ocalan due to his many years of service, did not let go of the bag in his hand, even though he was seriously injured in the accident."
THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL INJUSTICE LIES IN THE REALM OF ECONOMICS AND THE CLASS DISPARITY
20- CANAN COSKUN (Diken)
The ECHR ruled that you have been unlawfully detained, delivering a landmark judgment in the history of trials involving Turkey. Although the court found you justified, your detention is now entering its sixth year. What kind of judicial system would you build as a seasoned "justified" person if you were free to engage in political activity? Where should the post-AKP government start addressing the rot in the judiciary? What will be the biggest challenge when the judiciary is so compromised? What should they do in the face of these challenges?
As a matter of principle, neither social nor legal justice is merely a matter of legislation. Priority must be given to promoting a culture of democracy and human rights. That is to say, there can be no judicial justice without raising people's awareness. We need compulsory education on human rights, equality and democracy from elementary school to university, a human rights academy must be opened in every city, and public awareness must be raised through mass education. Human rights, discrimination and democracy should be addressed in every context, from television series to commercials, films, plays and literature, in a spirit of mobilization. When judges and prosecutors trained in such a cultural environment are on the ground, it will only then good laws and a well-functioning independent judiciary become viable.
Having said that, the most fundamental injustice lies in the realm of economics and the class disparity. Independent and impartial justice and equity cannot be achieved without undermining this system of exploitation. All of this must be seen as an intertwined set of struggles.
I APPEAL TO THE PEOPLE OF COLEMERG: OUR FUTURE REST ON OUR UNITY
21- ERKAN CAPRAZ (Yuksekovahaber)
During your co-chairmanship and on your initiative, virtually all the family elders and opinion leaders/tribal chiefs in Hakkari and the surrounding provinces who were previously against your party joined the HDP. You organized ceremonies for many of them. However, most of these figures have recently started to return their support to the AK Party, the CHP or other parties. What do you think is the reason for this? Do you have a message for these people?
I believe that power and relations around the power play the most decisive role in this. Unfortunately, some circles tend to maintain their existence by siding with the powerful and the rulers of the day. I wish they would insist on an honorable position by siding with the values of the people and the struggle for freedom and democracy.
Allow me to appeal to the people of Colemerg from here: Our future and our answer rest on our unity and solidarity. Please do not get carried away by small calculations. The HDP is already a great force and strives to address your every problem. We all must unite as one heart, as we did in June 2015. On this occasion, I make the same appeal as I did to the people of Colemerg, to all the areas you mentioned, and I send my greetings and love to all of them, especially to Gever.
THE WAY OUT OF THIS SYSTEM EXPLOITATION IS NOT REVISED NEOLIBERAL POLICIES BUT A LEFT ECONOMIC PROGRAM
22- UGUR GURSES (T24)
In your response to my question in November 2020, you stated, "... a democratic alliance does not necessarily mean a democratic economy. However, we must find ways to agree on a common economic program, at least for the transition period. Afterwards, if the possibility of democratic politics is fairly established for all segments, then of course, everyone will prepare for the next elections with their own economic program."
In the intervening two years, the course taken in the management of the economy has boosted corporate and bank profits, impoverished wage earners with devastating inflation, and brought the middle class closer to the poverty line. Given that there will be a "transition period" after the elections, what would be the priority objectives of the "joint economic program" that you will propose?
There does not yet seem to be a concrete economic program from the Six Party Table. We hear only fragmentary statements on the economy from certain spokesmen, all of which are neoliberal prescriptions. In other words, there is no perspective, for example, on the right to a budget, the local budget, the right of the people to oversee the budget, or the slightest hint of a developmental perspective in order to of a growth-oriented economy.
And this is in a time when there is an ongoing discussion on economic downsizing in the world. On this occasion, I would like to recommend the book "Downsizing" by Giacomo D'Alisa, Federico Demaria and Giorgos Kallis. The way out of this system of corruption, plunder, robbery and exploitation is not revised neoliberal policies, but a left economic program.
In other words, instead of keeping the neoliberal system afloat by supporting the working people, the producers, the industrialists and the farmers through monetary benefits, the balance must be shifted in favor of the working people - and we are talking about 90% of the population here. This starts with increasing participation and oversight on the budget of even the smallest local unit. Follows legal and administrative safeguards in favor of workers in areas such as social security, occupational security, worker safety, trade union rights, collective bargaining and the right to strike, and freedom of demonstration and expression. It also includes support for the democratic economy through local production, distribution and consumer cooperatives, ensuring fair taxation in favor of workers, and preventing investments that disregard the ecological balance.
In other words, with basic principles such as sufficient production for all, equitable distribution, clean energy, prevention of corruption, waste and extravagance, greater prosperity can be achieved for more people with less work and fewer resources, based on downsizing rather than growth. Starting with the public sector, employment can be increased by reducing working hours without cutting wages. Whether or not to transfer the resources to the workers is a political choice. The entire young population can be included in the workforce. It is not about working day and night, overproducing and overconsuming. It is about working enough, consuming enough and having the time and opportunity for a peaceful and enjoyable life. We come to this world not just to work, but to enjoy a pleasant and meaningful life. Therefore, the economic model should serve this purpose and nothing else.
THE ISSUE OF WOMEN'S EQUALITY AND FREEDOM IS NOT A LIFESTYLE ISSUE; IT IS HIGHLY POLITICAL AND CLASS-BASED
23- MEHVES EVIN (Kisa Dalga)
When you were detained, your daughters Delal and Dilda were still little girls. In the past six years, they have grown up into young women. What kind of Turkey do you envision for your daughters? What would you like to tell young women their age about the life and how to live it with independence? Have the intervening years and events changed your attitude toward women's freedom?
Women, and especially young women, are the largest oppressed nation on earth. This bitter reality has unfortunately been the case for four thousand years. All kinds of relationships related to power, authority, sovereignty, coercion, and oppression began with the subjugation of women in social life, and gradually brought about all hierarchical relationships of domination, such as the state, the army, the king, the emperor, the president, the prime minister, the boss, the father, the husband, leaving deep problems and suffering for humankind.
Therefore, the issue of women's equality and freedom is not a lifestyle issue or a problem; on the contrary, it is highly political and class-based. For this reason, democracy will never develop and society will never be free unless women are equal and free. Women's struggle is not only a struggle for women's freedom, indeed the social freedom is a central issue in the struggle of women.
Unfortunately, real socialism failed to bring this burning issue to consciousness in the last century, and an era ended before the historic role of pioneering women like Rosa Luxemburg could be appreciated. In this century, we cannot think of socialist struggle as separate from feminism, nor from ecological struggle.
Class, sex, identity, gender and ecology are major domains for socialism, and socialism must produce solutions to address each of them. I wouldn't offer any suggestions to women in this regard. Women should be in solidarity with other women. They should not join any movement led by men or male mentality. ???
The bright days of the future will draw closer with the women-led struggles, as is the case in Iran today. We, the male gender, must continue to stand by the side of women and give support to their struggle.
ALL SUCH PRACTICES, INCLUDING THE INCESSANT ISOLATION IN IMRALI, ARE DIRECTLY LINKED TO THE CHARACTER OF THE REGIME
24- SERDAR ALTAN (ARRESTED JOURNALIST - CO-CHAIR OF DICLE FIRAT JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION)
The formation of the Labor and Freedom Alliance seems to have created a stir in many circles. How do you assess the potency of the Alliance, do you think that they should run their own candidate? As you know, I am addressing you from prison, but as a more seasoned political prisoner, what would you like to say about the problems in prisons and the practice of solitary confinement and isolation, especially in Imrali?
I would like to first greet all the imprisoned members of press and send them my greetings and affection, along with my heartfelt solidarity.
The very existence of a journalist who had to ask this question from prison gives us an idea of the situation in this country. The biggest problem in prisons, in my opinion, is the prisons themselves. At the moment, every prison is one heap of problems, and some of them have rather turned into centers of torment. Prisoners are already being deprived of their basic freedoms, but in practice, they are unlawfully deprived of even their rights. From family and lawyer visits to social activities; from bans on newspapers and books to canteen prices, from confiscated letters to harassment in the form of room searches, everything is turned into a trouble in prisons, into a form of torment. As such, all such practices, including the incessant isolation in Imrali, are directly linked to the character of the regime.
Prisons controlled by a regime that feeds on oppression, violence, war, corruption and crises cannot be expected to be "normal". Prisons cannot be "normalized," and isolation will not end without expanding the struggle for democracy inside and outside prisons and securing social freedoms. All this is interconnected and can only be achieved through a democratic political struggle waged with wisdom, patience, endurance and determination.
There is more to democratic political struggle than party politics. It is the effective use of all constitutional rights, including rallies, marches, strikes and protests, based on legitimate struggles everywhere and under all conditions, from unions to platforms, associations, chambers and individuals. Some people assume that the democratic political struggle is limited to the confines of parliamentary politics, which is a mistake. Rather, democratic political struggle is about transforming all spheres of life into a terrain for democratic resistance, turning people into political agents through non-violent means and methods and democratic inner workings.
I wish immediate freedom of the members of the press as well as all other political prisoners.
I AM A SOCIALIST AND AN ETHNIC KURD (ZAZA), BUT I BELONG TO A PARTY THAT ADVOCATES MASS POLITICS
25- BAHADIR OZGUR (Arti TV programmer)
Do you have any observations on whether the lifestyle differences between Kurds who were born in the cities of the West, built their lives there, feel they belong there and no longer have ties to their family's homeland, and those who continue to live in Kurdish cities, are beginning to be reflected in political expectations and preferences for the future? In the context of this question, are you aware that you have become a new "Kurdish male role model", not only with the new approach you have created in politics, but also with your practice that goes beyond your interest in literature, painting and music, and with your romantic and gender-equal character in your family relationships?
I am aware of the two different sociologies you mentioned, but the gap is closing toward the urban Kurd. In other words, the dominant sociology is moving toward urbanization. Yet, I am trying to reach out not only to Kurdish sociology, but also to the contexts of rural people in cities and all classes. That's to say that I am a socialist; I may be an ethnic Kurd (Zaza), but I belong to a party that advocates mass politics. This is why I construct my discourse so as to reach large parts of the society, as I intend to make the HDP's line more visible. Of course, I also try to reach out to all Kurds.
I have heard about the claim you mentioned about me becoming a role model, but it is not possible for me to feel or measure here in prison what that might mean and what effect it might have. I am also not sure if it is good thing to take a person like me as a role model.
26- BARIS YARKADAS (TV100)
How does it feel to be the "village idiot"?
It is like walking up and down with a funnel on your head and trying in vain to tell everyone you are not crazy, only preaching the truth.
I ALSO HAVE A HAIR DRYER, BUT I'VE NEVER TRIED TWEETING WITH IT
27- IRFAN DEGIRMENCI (Halk TV)
The censorship law that the government put on the agenda right after the opening of the parliament has once again shown the environment in which Turkey is heading towards the elections. If the kettle becomes a problem in this process, do you have other electrical devices to carry your voice to the public?
I also have a hair dryer, but I've never tried tweeting with it! Unfortunately, with the fear and panic of a possible overthrown in the elections, the government is pursuing a policy that makes every kind of repression and deception rightful for itself. This was already predictable. The way to make the censorship law meaningless is to mobilize millions of people who will use social media more freely and boldly than before, as if the law did not exist, in the form of civil disobedience.
For example, if a tweet or a piece of news is blocked unjustly, millions of people should share it and be complicit in the same "crime." They cannot prosecute millions of people. So we shouldn't back down but keep pushing and pushing harder, which I think is the best thing to do.
I THINK OCALAN WOULD PROVIDE INFORMATION TO A COMMISSION OF INQUIRY WITHIN THE TBMM
28- IZEL SEZER (Ileri Haber)
What concrete steps do you see as essential for the construction of equal citizenship?
This can only be possible through the elimination of all discrimination in the constitution, the law and in practice. For this to happen, the policies of squeezing everyone into the Turkish, Sunni, Hanafi, male identity must be officially abandoned. There can be no talk of equal citizenship until people from different beliefs, identities and genders are free and equal in their complete identity, existence and reality.
29- ZAFER ARAPKIRLI (KRT)
There are four key political figures who can enlighten the public by talking about the period between June 7 and November 1, 2015: Erdogan, Davutoglu, Ocalan and Demirtas. We know that the first two will not provide a proper account. Since Ocalan is also unlikely to do so, that leaves you. When are you going to clearly reveal that period to the public? Or how would you summarize it in a few sentences?
A Commission of Inquiry should be established in the Turkish Grand National Assembly and this issue should be thoroughly investigated. I am ready to provide information to such a commission. I don't have any shocking or speculative information, it's just that I am in a position to explain in more detail the burning facts that we all know. I also think that Ocalan would help such a commission and provide information. After all, the commission will have the role of a kind of truth and confrontation commission. If we were to summarize that period in one sentence, we can say that it was one of the most serious conspiracies and period of massacres in Turkish political history.
* The names I referred to when answering the question of dear Nergis Demirkaya:
- General Adem Huduti, the Commander of the 2nd Army. He was the star of headlines such as "The commander who purged Cizre and Sur" and "Adem Huduti, the commander of the borders." Participated in the coup attempt and was arrested.
- Major General Halil Ibrahim Ergin, Commander of the 3rd Tactical Infantry Division in Yuksekova. He commanded the operations that led to the destruction of most of Yuksekova. Participated in the coup attempt and was arrested.
- Brigadier General Ahmet Otal, Commander of the Hakkari Mountain Commando Brigade. He was in high command of the operations that led to the destruction of most of Yuksekova. Participated in the coup attempt and was arrested.
- Major General Avni Argun, Chief of Staff of the 2nd Army. He was in overall command of the operations in Cizre and Sur. Participated in the coup attempt and was arrested.
- Brigadier General Ali Saynur, Commander of the 34th Border Brigade in Semdinli. He was in high command of the operations that led to the destruction of most of Yuksekova. Participated in the coup attempt and was arrested.
- Colonel Mehmet Sezgin, Chief of Staff of the 3rd Infantry Division in Yuksekova. He was in high command of the operations that led to the destruction of most of Yuksekova. Participated in the coup attempt and was arrested.
- Major General Abdullah Baysar, Commander of Sirnak 23rd Gendarmerie Border Division. He was serving in Uludere Senova Brigade Command during the Roboski massacre. Three years after the massacre, he was reappointed as the Commander of the Sirnak 23rd Gendarmerie Border Division in August 2015. He was in the high command of the operations carried out in Sirnak. Participated in the coup attempt and was arrested.
- Brigadier General Ali Osman Gurcan, Commander of the Cakirsogut Gendarmerie Command Brigade in Sirnak. He commanded the Cakirsogut Brigade, the main force in the operations in the Sirnak, Cizre and Idil districts. Participated in the coup attempt and was arrested.
- Brigadier General Semih Terzi, who was famously killed by Petty Officer Omer Halis Demir, was stationed in Sirnak. Terzi was leading special forces in operations in Syria and the region. On the night of July 15, he traveled from Silopi to the Kurdish region of Iraq, then back to Silopi, from there to Diyarbakir and from Diyarbakir with a team to Ankara, where he was killed.
- Kadir Guntepe, the district governor of Beytussebap. Arrested for being a Bylock user.
- Cuneyt Manisa, Deputy Governor of Sirnak. Arrested for being a Bylock user.
First Part: Demirtas: I have been made the ideal scapegoat