The Left group in the European Parliament has expressed its solidarity with Turkey’s main opposition left-wing party, the HDP, as MEPs along with over 30,000 delegates attended its third annual congress in Ankara on Sunday despite heavy security.

Pervin Buldan, a Kurd, and Sezai Temelli, a Turk were elected as the new HDP co-chairs – replacing Selahattin Demirtaş and Serpil Kemalbay. Both Demirtaş and former party leader Figen Yüksekdağ remain in jail on a variety of state-imposed charges. 

GUE/NGL President Gabi Zimmer addressed the congress and praised the delegates’ courage and defiance in the face of repeated threats and intimidation:

“I am delighted to be here with you and to see that no one at this congress is afraid of speaking up as the main opposition in Turkey – an opposition that is campaigning for peace and dialogue, for women's rights and a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue. You are not alone!”

In reference to Turkey’s authoritarian leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Zimmer said:

“No single person has the right to determine how one coexists in Turkey.”

The HDP congress took place just days after MEPs in the European Parliament called on Ankara to scrap the state of emergency in place since the failed July 2016 coup and has been used by Erdoğan to target political opponents, the judiciary, NGOs and the media.

Also at the congress was Martina Michels MEP, who is a member of the European Parliament’s delegation to Turkey. She relayed that some delegates still have faith in the EU to do the right thing and to not bow to Erdoğan’s demands:

“At the HDP congress, one gets a sense that the party members and their new co-chairs will do their best to ensure the political opposition is heard and seen as an alternative.”

“Having said that, they still need a huge amount of support and a strong voice from the EU to promote human rights in Turkey. Anti-refugee and migrant deals to maintain Fortress Europe and the continuation of arms exports to Turkey are no basis for a coherent Neighborhood Policy with a country that has long been authoritarian and fractious.”

Zimmer and Michels also presented a petition for peace and dialogue to the HDP delegates. Signed by 100 MEPs from across the political spectrum, it denounces the Turkish invasion of Afrin and calls on Ankara for a return to peace.

Zimmer concluded: “it beggars belief that the call for peace has once again led to arrest warrants, imprisonment and persecution, and that human rights to freedom of expression and political interference have been disregarded. That is why so many citizens with divergent views are in need of a voice. This equally applies to the former co-chairs, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ. We demand their immediate release from Turkish jails.” 

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