Turkey's main opposition elects new leaders amid crackdown

by The Region    


Turkey's the second largest opposition party elected new leaders on Sunday (February 11), at a congress that party officials said authorities had tried to stop by arresting hundreds of would-be attendees.

2 days before the congress, police detained leading members of several Kurdish and leftist parties on Friday, the co-leader of the HDP party said, describing it as attempts to hamper preparations for the annual HDP congress on Sunday.

Former co-leader Serpil Kemalbay herself was among facing 17 suspects facing arrest over their opposition to Turkey's military offensive in neighbouring Syria, according to state-run Anadolu news agency.

The HDP, parliament's second-largest opposition party, is the only major political party to oppose the campaign - dubbed "Operation Olive Branch" - against the YPG in Afrin.

"The aim of these illegal and arbitrary operations is to prevent our congress being held in a healthy way," Kemalbay said, promising that the party meeting would go ahead.

There are estimated 32,000 attendees at the HDP congress. The party unanimously elected Istanbul lawmaker Pervin Buldan and Deputy Co-Chairman Sezai Temelli, the only candidates, as the new leaders of the party.

Buldan's husband was murdered in 1994, after the government said it had a list of businesspeople who were funding the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK). The killer was never identified.

"Women know the real face of war. We lost our children, our homes, our partners. That's why we say that women must be the vanguards of peace. We will resist fascism in Turkey to build the peace."

"Today, the people of Turkey have two choices. They will either choose the picture of hope and peace or they will be imprisoned by war politics under the pressure of fascism. With all of our people and friends who are gathered with us on the front for democracy, the HDP will enhance the struggle for peace and tear the latter picture into pieces. Nobody should doubt that", newly elected co-chairman Sezai Temelli said in his speech at the congress.

The HDP's other co-leader, Selahattin Demirtas, is in jail over alleged links to Kurdish militants and is among many leading members of the party imprisoned on similar charges, which they have denied.

The Peoples' Democratic Party met to replace Selahattin Demirtas, its leader since June 2014 and the person who took it into parliament for the first time, as he is in jail facing up to 142 years in prison with charges of supporting terrorism and said he would not seek re-election.