Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Sunday told state broadcaster TRT News that he considers the Kurdish political movement’s People’s Democratic Party (HDP) the same as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Extending this equation to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in northern Syria as well as the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Erdoğan said: “The HDP is equal to the PKK, and that is equal to the YPG and PYD. No ifs, ands or buts, it’s the truth.”
The PKK is designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. The YPG, on the other hand, took part in operations of the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria and was supported by the US as one of the main components of the ground force against ISIL, even though it was viewed by the Turkish government as the Syrian extension of the PKK.
Pointing out that the HDP’s events have neither displayed the Turkish flag nor played Turkey’s national anthem, Erdoğan suggested that he and his people took patriotic pride in defending these traditions.
Erdoğan’s words came prior to local elections slated for March 31, for which his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) formed an alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), while several polls anticipated victories for HDP nominees in Kurdish-dominated provinces, most notably Diyarbakır.
The HDP has been one of Erdoğan’s main targets since a coup attempt in July 2016, following which his AKP-led government cracked down on several dissident groups including the Kurds.
Trustees have been appointed by the Interior Ministry to nearly a hundred predominantly Kurdish municipalities since the enactment of a law in September 2016 that granted the right to the ministry to remove elected mayors from their posts.
A report released by the HDP in December 2018 had revealed that at least 2,000 members of the party were detained in 2018, 500 of whom were put behind bars.
The party’s former co-chairpersons Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ have been in pre-trial detention since November 2016.