GUE/NGL’s Martina Michels – a substitute member of the European Parliament’s Delegation to Turkey – travelled to Ankara this week and along with international observers from France and Sweden, the German MEP attended the trial of Figen Yüksekdağ, the co-chairmen of the Halkların Demokratik Partisi (HDP, Peoples' Democratic Party) who has been held by the authorities on ‘terrorism’ charges since November last year

In court, Yüksekdağ appeared via video link along with co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and the pair voiced their opposition to the illegal ban over their parliamentary mandate and membership. Yüksekdağ also pointed out that as a representative of the HDP, the party has a mandate that was legitimised by six million voters. She added that by putting the leadership on trial is an open declaration that all of its supporters are also ‘terrorists’.

Commenting on the developments in the Turkish capital – which came ahead of this Sunday’s constitutional referendum that could give President Erdoğan even more power – Michels said:

“Like so many others, the two co-chairmen of the HDP – both incarcerated since November 2016 – are accused of terrorist propaganda by the Turkish authorities. The trial was based on interviews with German newspapers in which Figen Yüksekdağ spoke objectively about the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and explained that the HDP is not a wing of the PKK, and that her party represents how many people feel in Turkey. The HDP also once again reiterated its hope for a peaceful solution to the so-called Kurdish question,” she said.

In spite of her arrest, Yüksekdağ remains a very influential voice of Turkey’s feminist movement. However, NGOs which focussed on feminism and campaigned against violence against women have been targeted. Unlike all her other colleagues who have also been arrested, a court in Turkey has now recognised her status as an elected member of the Grand National Assembly as well as her HDP membership, with Michels noting:

“It is particularly striking that with the rapid destruction of democracy in Turkey, a strategy against politically active women is being pursued by President Erdoğan in order to strengthen his own presidency.” 

“This is a government whose leader is openly opposed to the equality of women and supports the invisibility of women in public and political life. The fact that such action is being directed at the opposition HDP – the only one with a female co-chair – is more than a symbolic act. It is a demonstration of power against politically committed women who work for freedom and self-determination,” argues Michels.

Concluding her thoughts after the trial was adjourned until June due to an administrative error by the court, the German MEP said:

“On the one hand, it is painful to witness the absurdity of this unjust trial against an opposition party in Turkey. However, the presence of so many international observers is highly important as it comes just a few days before the constitutional referendum. With that upcoming vote’s democratic legitimacy very much in doubt, this is an act of solidarity with the persecuted – both political and social.” 

“On the other hand, our support is also a moment of hope for a democratic Turkey which values basic political rights and media freedom, plus the self-determination of women and men – all of which must not be swept aside by the outcome of this referendum on Sunday,” Michels said.

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