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Is the HDP a pro-Kurdish party?

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Is the HDP a pro-Kurdish party?

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jun 01, 2019 10:34 pm

Is the HDP a pro-Kurdish party?

Since the early 1990s, the Kurds of Turkey have actively sought to represent themselves in Turkey’s mainstream political structures. From the People’s Labour Party (HEP) and its subsequent closure onwards, the Kurdish people have made clever use of the letters of the Turkish alphabet in their attempt to circumvent the state’s relentless political suppression and disenfranchisement.

From extra-judicial killings of party officials to the imprisonment of members of parliament, the history— and present— of Kurdish party politics in Turkey is more a tale of survival than anything else.

Throughout the 1990s and the 2000s, the primary objective of the Kurdish political movement in Turkey was to put the Kurds, and their question, on the political map. Towards the latter end of the first decade of the millennium, the Kurdish question was accepted as such and, like every other question, was in need of an answer.

In Iran, Iraq, and Syria, more than 90 percent of the Kurds live in the historically Kurdish regions of each country. However, in Turkey, as many Kurds live in historically non-Kurdish regions as they do in the southeast (Northern Kurdistan).

It is hard to neglect the impact of this demographic reality, among other things, on Kurdish political mobilization in each of the four countries. Ethnic Kurdish nationalism, in which an independent Kurdish nation-state is sine qua non, has evidently not appealed to the Kurds of Turkey as much as it has to the Kurds of the other parts — this, by no means, is a divergence of political aspiration resulting from demographic shifts.

However, the impacts of the physical and cultural atrocities committed by the Turkish state history throughout history are far too lengthy to properly expound upon here.

To support this claim, we can look at the very limited support enjoyed by pro-Kurdish political parties in Turkey that have extensive nationalist programs. But even more so, we should look at the record-breaking support gained by the HDP in the most recent general elections.

Never has any pro-Kurdish party received a higher proportion of the Kurdish vote in the history of the Turkish Republic. More importantly, this record was set specifically when Kurdish nationalists vehemently criticized the HDP for its perceived “Turkey-isation” (“Türkiyelilesme”).

More nationalist parties have competed for the same space in Kurdish politics. Even so there have been relentless attacks on the HDP for no longer being a pro-Kurdish party (generally by officials of the aforementioned parties) and the HDP has transformed the footprint of pro-Kurdish politics in Turkey from consistently lingering in the band of 5-7 percent to receiving 11-13 percent in countrywide elections . Although a jump in the ethnic Turkish vote contributed to this, statistics confirm that a surge in the ethnic Kurdish vote was more significant.

This, of course, does not tell the whole story. But to quash the unfair and irrational — yet prevalent — comparisons between the pro-Kurdish polities of especially north and south Kurdistan, one must understand a particularly specific sociological distinction between the two domains.

Since the early 1990s, long before the Justice and Development Party (AKP) were established, about half of the Kurds in Turkey have consistently voted for mainstream Turkish political parties despite the existence of a pro-Kurdish alternative.

In comparison, it is almost unthinkable for the Kurds in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to vote for parties headquartered in Baghdad. Conversely, no Arab in Baghdad is inclined to vote for a Kurdish party from the north.

No pro-Kurdish political party in Turkey has wrestled back as many Kurdish votes from the mainstream establishment party (currently the AKP) than the HDP has since its establishment in 2012. This shows that the HDP’s message has not only resonated with a new Turkish voter base, but a larger portion of the Kurdish population in Turkey too. From this vantage point, “Turkey-isation” has also meant “Kurdification”.

The independence referendum, if nothing else, once again showed the Kurdish people that nothing unifies the states of Turkey, Iran and Iraq quite like opposition to the Kurdish aspiration for self-determination. At the same time, we witnessed the reluctance of the international stakeholders in the region to back an independence push too.

What is left is either the carving out of an independent Kurdistan through the military defeat of four different states, or their democratic transformation: one that would enhance the lives of all the peoples in the region and accommodate the political and cultural rights of the Kurdish people. The HDP is the political articulation of the second option.

It should also be stated that the effort to democratize the existing nation-states that encompass Kurdistan is more humanitarian and less costly of lives the nationalist alternative. It may seem unfair to place the burden of democratizing countries like Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria — a very tough draw indeed — on the Kurdish people.

However, this is more a geographic, historical and conjunctural necessity rather than a political tactic — and despite its difficulty, has proven successful in Turkey and is gaining traction and plaudits in Syria.

As the representative of the HDP in the United States, I have been present in two separate meetings in which prominent officials from the two most established political organizations in Eastern and Southern Kurdistan separately stated something along the lines of: “We too need to form something like the HDP in Iran/Iraq to further the Kurdish cause amongst the peoples we live with.”

The Kurdish question is inherently tied to the authoritarian and anti-democratic character of the regional states that encompass Kurdistan. Its solution is, therefore, intertwined with the democratization of these states. The struggle for democracy in Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria is thus the struggle for Kurdistan itself.

The reason why so many Kurds live away from the traditional Kurdish lands inside Turkish borders, is that Turkey burnt Kurdish lands and villages driving them away from their homeland X(
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Is the HDP a pro-Kurdish party?



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