Başak Demirtaş, the wife of jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş, has criticized opposition figures in Turkey for their silence in response to recent chants by supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calling for her husband’s execution.
Erdoğan, the winner of a runoff that will extend his 20-year rule until 2028, referred to Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a human rights lawyer, as a “terrorist” during his victory speech to a massive crowd outside the presidential palace in Ankara on May 28.
The president once again accused Demirtaş, who has been behind bars since November 2016 on politically motivated charges, of responsibility for the deaths of 51 people during street protests in the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır in 2014.
Following Erdoğan’s harsh remarks targeting the Kurdish leader, the crowd chanted “Execution for Selo,” referring to Selahattin Demirtaş.
In an interview with the T24 news website on Monday, Başak Demirtaş expressed her frustration over the lack of support from the opposition in addressing the concerning demand by Erdoğan supporters regarding her husband.
“… Not a single politician … bothered to make a single phone call. … It would be better to ask if there was even one politician who uttered a single word against that horrifying call. Sadly, I have to say that also didn’t happen. Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu remained silent, the co-chairs of the HDP remained silent and the parties within our alliance remained silent. No one reacted, and unfortunately, this [call] has been normalized,” she said.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was the opposition’s presidential candidate and Erdoğan’s only rival in the runoff.
Başak Demirtaş further stated that Erdoğan’s remarks about her husband during his victory speech were intended to “incite the public to hatred and animosity” towards the Kurdish leader.
Demirtaş’s wife also criticized the attitude of Erdoğan’s wife, Emine Erdoğan, regarding the call for execution.
“Imagine that your spouse has become president once again. He addresses the public and he calls someone who is still in prison a ‘murderer,’ while tens of thousands of people demand that the targeted person be killed. And you watch all this with great pleasure. As a mother, as a woman, it was horrifying to me,” Başak Demirtaş said.
Reacting to the incident in a tweet posted through his lawyers, Selahattin Demirtaş described Erdoğan as “the elderly king, who is drunk with a fraudulent and fake victory and continues his spree of slander, threats and insults from the balcony of his luxurious palace” and his supporters as a “lynching crowd intoxicated by lies and pleasure.”
Demirtaş was an outspoken critic of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, Erdoğan, before he was jailed. He ran in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018 as a rival to Erdoğan. The imprisoned leader conducted his election campaign from jail for the 2018 election.
Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 as a part of reforms to facilitate Turkey’s accession to the European Union, although the death penalty has not been used since 1984.
Restoring capital punishment is a topic Erdoğan frequently talked about ahead of elections. The issue started to come up during the president’s speeches months before the May 14 parliamentary and presidential elections.
Erdoğan stated in response to the crowd calling for Demirtaş’s execution at a rally prior to the June 24, 2018 elections that he would have approved the reinstatement of capital punishment had parliament passed such legislation.
Erdoğan and his ruling AKP, in addition to their ultranationalist election partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), accuse the HDP of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.