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Jailed Kurdish politician Demirtaş granted 2021 Human Rights Award by German city

In this file photo taken on June 5, 2016 Co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş delivers a speech in Istanbul during a rally on the lawmakers' immunity. Europe's top human rights court on December 22, 2020 called on Turkey to release a prominent Kurdish leader imprisoned four years ago, citing infringements on his freedom of expression and the right to free elections. OZAN KOSE / AFP

The city of Weimar, Germany, has announced that it will grant its 2021 Human Rights Award to Selahattin Demirtaş, an opposition Kurdish politician who has been behind bars on politically motivated charges in Turkey since November 2016.

The city council of Weimar, located in central Germany, announced in a statement on Thursday that it had accepted a proposal from the selection committee to grant the award to the 48-year-old politician who they said is committed to a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question, freedom of belief and equal rights for people in Turkey.

In the statement Demirtaş, who is the former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is cited as “one of the most important opposition politicians in Turkey’s recent history.” It is also stated that Demirtaş defends a “peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue, democratization, freedom of belief of Christian, Alevi and Yazidi faith groups” and “equality of rights of Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian and Greek people in Turkey in terms of language, politics and culture.”

The “Kurdish problem” or “issue” refers to the Turkish state long depriving Kurds of rights related to their culture and identity.

The award, which carries with it 5000 euros, will be given at a ceremony in Weimar on Dec. 10. It is not yet clear who will accept the award on behalf of the jailed politician.

Meanwhile, the Göttingen-based Society for Threatened Peoples (STP-GfbV), an international NGO and human rights organization aiming to create awareness of and protect minority peoples around the world who are threatened by oppressive governments, welcomed the Weimar city council decision to grant its human rights award to Demirtaş.

“This award is a clear sign to the German Federal Government to rethink its current Turkey policy — because of human rights violations in Turkey itself and also because of the human rights violations for which Turkey is responsible in countries like Syria and Libya,” STP Middle East expert Dr. Kamal Sido said in Göttingen on Thursday.

“The federal government should take a sharper tone against the [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan regime and demand the immediate release of Demirtaş because all people in Turkey deserve a life of freedom and democracy,” he added.

The Weimar Human Rights Award has been given since 1995 to people, groups or organizations who are particularly committed to protecting and strengthening fundamental rights. Another Kurdish politician in Turkey, HDP lawmaker Meral Danış Bektaş, was also granted the award in 1998.

Demirtaş has been behind bars for five years on terrorism charges despite a decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that found Turkey guilty of violating his rights.

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