MEPs to form Kurdish Friendship Group, nominate Demirtaş for human rights prize

Members of the European Parliament (EP) from the European Free Alliance (EFA), the European United Left–Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) groups have announced the establishment of a Kurdish Friendship Group in a press briefing on Tuesday, Deutsche Welle Turkish reported.

The meeting was focused on the government-appointed mayors who replaced elected mayors from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey’s majority-Kurdish Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin provinces, DW said.

HDP’s Co-chair Sezai Temelli was present at the meeting, according to DW, calling on European countries to not compromise on democracy and universal values, and to show solidarity with the HDP.

“This is a critical time, particularly for Kurdish people in Turkey who are seeing their democratic rights undermined by a government which allows the dismissal of properly elected mayors just because of their political allegiance,” an EFA statement quoted MEP François Alfonsi as saying.

The 15 MEPs will meet in Brussels in October to formalise the Kurdish Friendship Group, Alfonsi said. The MEP added that they are expecting more MEPs to join.

The issue of appointed mayors goes beyond the HDP, as the country’s interior minister Süleyman Soylu has also threatened Istanbul’s mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, said S&D’s Kati Piri, a Dutch MEP who has served as the EP’s Turkey rapporteur.Centre-left opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) İmamoğlu, who won the elections in Turkey’s biggest city by a slim margin in March 2019 and then with a landslide victory in the re-vote in June, had visited the dismissed Kurdish mayors, a move that led Minister Soylu threatening his dismissal.

Piri continued to say that the hearing to be held in the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) Grand Chamber on Sept.18 for HDP’s jailed former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş is important for all politicians in a similar situation in Turkey, DW said.

Thousands of HDP members and administrators remain in prisons in Turkey over terrorist propaganda charges, which have led to convictions in the ECHR for Turkey on grounds of freedom of speech violations.

Cypriot MEP Costas Mavrides proposed nominating Demirtaş for the EP’s human rights award the Sakharov Prize, DW said. The proposal received support in the meeting.

The Sakharov Prize, named after Russian scientist and dissident Andrei Sakharov, is awarded to “individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to the fight for human rights across the globe, drawing attention to human rights violations.”

Nelson Mandela was the first recipient of the award in 1988. Leyla Zana, the first Kurdish woman elected to the Turkish parliament who served over 10 years in prison for her pro-Kurdish activism, received the award in 1995.