Demirtaş: Turkey should visit Öcalan for peace

Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish HDP, stated during the Kobane trial hearings that the Turkish state should meet with the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan for a ceasefire. Demirtaş’s first defense statement of his seven-year imprisonment will take multiple days.

Duvar English

Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), stated on Dec. 25 that the Turkish state should send envoys to initiate talks with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan for a ceasefire during his defense statement in the Kobane Trial.

Demirtaş took the stand for the first time since his arrest in 2017 and began his defense statement via the video-conferencing system SEGBİS. He began his statement in Kurdish and stated that the entire defense would take multiple days. 

Demirtaş said that he was grief-stricken over the 12 Turkish soldiers recently killed in clashes with the PKK and that if the government could have achieved peace, none of the soldiers would have died. 

He pointed to the government as responsible for soldier deaths and criticized attempts by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its allies to blame the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party. 

Demirtaş continued, “We must hold accountable those who order operations from their warm seats for burdening 20-year-old soldiers with the responsibility of the Kurdish Problem.”

“Whereas DEM Party has been saying ‘Do not send 20-year-old children to die on the mountains’ for days, and suggesting an easier, cheaper, more honorable way,” added Demirtaş.

He stated, “I support the state of the Turkish Republic meeting with Mr. Öcalan to peacefully end its last Kurdish rebellion.” 

The jailed former party leader emphasized their wish to let children live. “Instead of sending the Turkish youth to combat in the -20 degree cold, send envoys to İmralı Island,” Demirtaş asserted. 

Demirtaş added that all former HDP deputies including him were willing to meet with Öcalan even through the video conferencing system and asked the government to approve the applications from DEM Party deputies to visit Öcalan on the prison in İmralı Island. 

“They do not want the deaths to stop, that is why they do not allow to initiate talks (with Öcalan),” stated Demirtaş. 

He emphasized the hypocrisy of the ruling party and its partners to “benefit from the spilled blood, while they accuse of being terrorists and killers as we mourn the death of 20-year-olds.”

According to Demirtaş the solution to the Kurdish Problem lay in negotiations, and all rights of Kurds had to be guaranteed with a new constitution. 

Demirtaş also pointed out that he found the Turkish government hypocritical for defending peace in Palestine while imprisoning those who call for peace in Turkey. 

“We will continue our principled stance for peace,” he ended the first portion of his defense statement. 

Demirtaş has been jailed since Nov. 4, 2016, along with his co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ for the Kobane case. The trial began on April 2021 with dozens of members of the HDP, over protests that broke out during the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria's (ISIS) assault on the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane in 2014.

Thirty-seven people died in the protests, which were triggered by accusations that Turkey's army stood by as the jihadists besieged Kobane, a border town in plain view of Turkey.

The 108 defendants were charged with 37 counts of homicide and disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state. The prosecutors are seeking aggravated life imprisonment for 36 of the defendants, including Demirtaş and Yüksekdağ.