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I would like the PKK to lay down its arms: Demirtaş

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Jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş, a former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has said he would like the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to lay down its arms.

Arrested on Nov. 4, 2016 on terrorism-related charges, Demirtaş has since then remained in prison despite two European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings in 2018 and 2020 that said Demirtaş was imprisoned for “political” reasons and not for “legal” reasons, ordering his “immediate release.”

The Kurdish leader answered questions posed by the T24 news website’s Murat Sabuncu from Edirne Prison.

“If possible, I would like the PKK to completely silence and lay down its arms,” Demirtaş said.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU, More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK.

“However, unfortunately, there are two main obstacles to this,” Demirtaş said — the government’s unwillingness to discuss anything other than military solutions and the continued “isolation” of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.

The “isolation” of Öcalan, who has been jailed in a high-security prison on İmralı Island in the Sea of Marmara since 1999, refers to his inability to speak with his lawyers for years.

“Because the person who can convince the PKK is Öcalan, and they have been keeping him in isolation for years,” Demirtaş told T24’s Sabuncu.

“I would be happy if the PKK silences its weapons despite these obstacles. But unfortunately, experience has shown that this isn’t easy.”

Turkish authorities had conducted direct talks with Öcalan for over two years until the summer of 2015, when the death of two police officers near the Syrian border became the official reason for their collapse.

Since then, there have been continuing clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces.

HDP has no ties to the PKK

Demirtaş also told T24 that the HDP has no ties to the PKK as alleged by the Turkish government.

“We need to be able to explain this to the Turkish public. A democratic political party cannot have ties to an armed organization. The HDP’s view of the Kurdish issue and its proposals for solution are different from many other parties and are the most realistic. Our proposal involves dialogue and negotiation, not military operations. It is necessary to explain to the public that dialogue and negotiation are the only solution. For this perspective [to be credible], no one should see the HDP as the political extension of the PKK,” the Kurdish leader said.

The “Kurdish issue,” a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse, refers to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court in June 2021 accepted an indictment filed by a prosecutor seeking closure of the HDP and the imposition of a political ban on 451 party members as well as a freeze of the party’s bank accounts for alleged ties to the outlawed PKK.

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