Defending Kobanê is not a crime – an invitation to show solidarity with the HDP
In what dystopian world could support for Kobanê as it withstood siege by ISIS be considered a crime? The answer, it seems, is in Turkey. On 26 April, 108 leading members of the leftist pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) will face trial in Ankara for calling on people to protest against the ISIS attack on Kobanê over six years ago. This case is part of a campaign that aims to expunge the party from Turkish politics. Already, thousands of party members have been imprisoned, including former MPs and mayors and the party’s former co-chairs. The HDP have called on everyone who cares about democracy to show their solidarity on the day that the Kobanê trial starts. To help you do that from your home, we are asking you to send us a photograph of yourself holding a supportive sign, which we can then combine into a collage for publication as a virtual protest that day. (More details at the end)
In October 2014, news from Kobanê was getting more and more alarming, and the black flags of the as-yet unbeaten ISIS militias could be clearly seen from across the Turkish/Syrian border. The Turkish government had promised help, but instead were using their military to prevent Kurds and others crossing into Syria to join the defence. At that time, the HDP were facilitating peace negotiations between the Turkish government and the PKK ,and they didn’t want to do anything that might threaten fragile relations, but they could no longer keep silent.
A meeting of 108 people, who formed the HDPs Central Executive Board, agreed to send a call, via Twitter, for people to join the street protests against ISIS and against the Turkish government’s closure of the border. The protests were large and passionate, and they were attacked by members of the Turkish security forces, and by far-right Islamists and Turkish nationalists. The ensuing violence resulted in tens of deaths and many more injuries. President Erdoğan only heightened the tensions when he announced, with seeming pleasure, that Kobanê was about to fall. The official death toll was 37; the actual number was probably around 50, of whom the great majority were people protesting in support of Kobanê.
The HDP has made multiple demands for a full investigation into what happened. Each time they have been refused and no investigation has been carried out. Instead, over six years later, everyone who was at that HDP Executive Board meeting is being held responsible for the deaths, and is also accused of disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state. The prosecutor is calling for life sentences without parole.
Before the case was extended to cover so many people, the same charges were used to detain the HDP’s former co-chairs. Selahattin Demirtaș has challenged his pretrial detention at the European Court of Human Rights. The court’s ruling, issued just before Christmas, left the Turkish prosecutor without a legitimate leg to stand on. They concluded that the entire case was baseless and politically motivated – and called for Demirtaș’s immediate release. Instead of releasing him, the Turkish prosecutors extended the charges to include everyone who was then on the HDP’s Executive Board.
If you would like to help us show the Turkish government that they can’t hide behind a show trial and that the HDP are not alone, then please take a photograph of yourself holding the following message: Defending Kobanê is NOT a crime. Solidarity with the HDP from [Name of your town], and please send your photo to us at [email protected]. Please send your photos by 24 April at the latest to give us time to collate them.