The escalating conflict in Idlib is naturally the most debated topic nowadays. The harsh reactions of President Erdoğan and his partner Nationalist Action Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli are making headlines. It’s hard to discuss other issues when the coffins of slain soldiers are being sent back from Syria and when the nationalist mood is in full swing.

Beyond the ruling AKP and MHP alliance, the opposition İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener is also calling for “action”, saying that “diplomacy should be sidelined”. 

Meanwhile, the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) suggestion that the situation in Idlib be discussed at the parliament has been rejected. But what criticism can CHP present now, since it supported the motion to extend military operations in Syria and Northern Iraq? Back in October, the only opposition party to object to the motion was the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). 

HDP deputy and former journalist Ahmet Şık, who has been jailed twice and is still tried on the Cumhuriyet case, says people could not say no to war:

“The friends of ours who raised their voice for peace were jailed. There is no other party but the HDP rejecting war. Nobody deserves to die as a soldier or as a militant. Why don’t people question why so many young people are dying in Turkey? Or where the army is going?”

Şık is a one of the rare HDP politicians openly criticising his own party and the PKK. While he points to the state as the biggest aggressor, he does not accept PKK violence. In an interview with ARTI TV, Şık said that PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan would probably call for a withdrawal of its militants from Turkey: 

“Öcalan is under heavy lockdown because the state wants the war to continue. If he were allowed to contact his lawyers and send a message, I believe he would make a call to the PKK.”

We cannot confirm Şık’s claim, or what such a call would bring about. In the meantime, the pressure on the HDP and its members persists. The escalation of clashes in Idlib will likely step it up further.

But does the HDP have any new strategy to built support? As the HDP congress nears, its main strategy is again “to strengthen the democratic alliance”. But how? Şık points out that the conditions under which HDP was founded are no longer valid:

“The HDP was a product of the peace process. The conditions are very different now, there is a huge gap between now and then. Yet I still believe that the HDP should return to its core. That is, to prove itself as a party even in this unjust order. Not to oppose within the order, but to oppose it, by being an alternative. If the HDP can go back to its roots, which was the People Democratic Congress (HDK), I believe it can gain a lot more ground.”

Şık is not the only HDP politician to suggest other ways within his party. The HDP Co-Mayor of Kars, Ayhan Bilgen, made similar remarks to artı “People that are not Kurds now demand more from the HDP. The party should format itself accordingly. This does not mean it should relinquish its founding principles. On the contrary, we need to update them.”

Such suggestions for oppositional forces are rare and precious. Especially when there are so many survival issues at stake. Many deaths and sufferings of young people, women and men alike, go unnoticed because they are not wrapped in flags. 

Each month, hundreds of workers die in “work accidents.” Every day, a woman is killed by her spouse or relative. And sadly, suicides related to poverty have been on the rise. Recently, a father set himself ablaze in Hatay because he could not afford to buy a can of coke for his child.

If only the opposition forces could unite around matters of life and death. If only the opposition people would leave their comfort zone to support them. This seems harder than ever, but it is not impossible.