The jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Abdullah Öcalan has declared the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) – an umbrella party encompassing the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and a number of leftist parties – as the inheritor of the “historical legacy of [my] revolutionary struggle.”
“The revolutionism of 1971 is the revolutionism of rebellion against the state. Negotiations with the state are important after 40 years. This is because the revolutionary struggle can turn into an acquisition of humanity only through a qualified negotiation process. In this respect, I congratulate our congress and send my revolutionary wishes that you will take over this historical legacy, which I have always felt on my shoulders, with a new understanding, and that you will carry it to high [places],” Öcalan said in a message read out by the BDP’s deputy parliamentary group chair, Pervin Buldan, during the HDP convention.
The “Kurdish Freedom Movement” was first inspired by Mahir Çayan, according to Öcalan. Çayan was an iconic figure of Turkish leftist movements, but was imprisoned in 1971 and killed by security forces one year after escaping from prison. The HDP’s newly elected co-chair Ertuğrul Kürkçü was the only survivor of the armed conflict, in which Çayan and nine other friends were killed.
Öcalan said the HDP carried as much importance as the foundation of the PKK. “The HDP marks an important stage in our common struggle for democracy. The experience of our struggle will evolve into democracy,” his statement added.
The HDP held its first extraordinary congress on Sept. 27 in an effort to review its party administration ahead the launch of the local elections campaign.
The party was formed upon the suggestion of Öcalan “to bring the Kurdish movement and the Turkish left together,” when BDP lawmakers first visited him earlier this year as part of ongoing peace efforts.
The BDP had previously discussed entering local elections under roof of the HDP, though leading BDP figures reportedly objected to the idea. The BDP will nominate candidates for the local elections in 21 provinces in eastern and southeastern Turkey, from where most of its votes usually come, while the HDP will enter the elections in the western parts of Turkey. The BDP and HDP are expected to merge before the 2015 local elections.
Kürkçü and Sebahat Tuncel, who resigned from the BDP earlier this week to join the HDP, were elected as the new co-chairpersons of the party.
The main theme of the convention, which the HDP called a “grand congress,” was “This is just the beginning,” with the few thousand party supporters in the congress hall chanting: “This is just the beginning, we will continue our struggle.”
Banners at the congress were dominated by freedom and equality, as well as the demands of the BDP. “Territorial governance, democratic autonomy,” “Education in mother tongue is a fundamental human right,” “Freedom for all believes, equal citizenship for Alevis,” “Freedom to political prisoners,” “No to nature and labor exploitation, the solution is ecological life,” “No to imperialist interventions in Syria,” “Greetigs to the Rojava revolution,” “Don’t be silent, shout ‘There are LBGTİ individuals,’” read some of the banners.
Songs in Turkish and Kurdish were also played at the congress.
BDP co-chair Gültan Kışanak and BDP lawmakers attended the convention, however, the other BDP co-chair, Selahattin Demirtaş, was absent. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chair Nihat Matkap also attended.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a message to the HDP convention, but the message was not read out by the convention council. Party officials confirmed that Erdoğan had sent a message, but refrained from revealing its content.
Almost all speakers addressing the convention stressed the “common struggle” and “the brotherhood of Turks and Kurds,” while vowing to maintain “the spirit of the Gezi protests.”
“It’s time for barricades now. The process that began with the Kurdish Freedom Movement and continued with strikes, Newroz celebrations and Gezi was crowned with the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) resistance. The HDP is the cement of this barricade,” Sırrı Süreyya Önder, who joined the HDP few days ago, said in his address to the convention.
The convention committee was formed carefully, to show the HDP’s much emphasized diversity. Hüda Kaya, an activist who defended freedom for headscarves, Garo Paylan, an administrator of Istanbul’s Yeşilköy Armenian Primary School, and transsexual activist Esmeray took part in the HDP’s convention committee, along with Kurdish politician Tuncer Bakırhan.
In many respects, the convention was no different to any BDP congress, with some supporters carrying posters of Öcalan and flags of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the PKK. Chants of pro-PKK slogans were often heard, such as, “The PKK is the people, the people are here,” and “Long live leader Apo [Abdullah Öcalan].”
Many attendees also expressed solidarity with the Gezi Park protests, chanting the motto of June’s demonstrations: “Everywhere Taksim, everywhere resistance.” A representative of the ODTÜ students, who have recently staged protests for a road project crossing the university’s campus, as well as an activist from Istanbul’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community also delivered speeches during the convention.
Ertuğrul Kürkçü sent his greetings to Öcalan, calling him “Comrade Öcalan.”
“Mr. Öcalan reminded us of a truth in his message. The struggle for the democratic and social liberation of Turkey and Kurdistan is common. He was emphasizing that the time has come for the common struggle of the two communities when he said in his message, ‘I hand over my legacy to you.’ This party will carry this struggle to the upcoming century,” Kürkçü said.
“We are insisting on socialism, humanity cannot survive with capitalism,” he added.
After delivering his speech, Kürkçü was rushed after suffering a heart attack. Kürkçü was in good condition after undergoing treatment but will be kept under medical observation for a while, the congress committee announced.
Meanwhile, several academics and journalists appeared on the HDP’s advisory board.
Journalists Nuray Mert, Pınar Öğünç, Yıldırım Türker and Yetvart Danzikyan are among the HDP’s advisory board members, along with BDP co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş, Gültan Kışanak. Socialist Democracy Party (SDP) leader Rıdvan Turan, Labour Party (EMEP) leader Selma Gürkan, Human Rights Association (İHD) chair Öztürk Türkdoğan, and novelist Vedat Türkali.