Former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş, imprisoned for the past five years, has issued a statement of support for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) plan to “make amends” for Turkey’s historical mistakes.
“I attach great importance to Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu's statement and what it means for social reconciliation and the internal peace of our country, I support it wholeheartedly,” Demirtaş said in an article he penned for PolitikYol.
Last week, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu stated that if elected the party would institute a plan to “make amends” for the mistakes that Turkey has made in the past as a means of solving the country's contemporary problems.
“We cannot permanently solve any of our problems without confronting our past mistakes in a sincere, honest, and courageous way, and making amends to each other,” he said.
In his statement, the CHP leader said they would make amends to the people imprisoned in Turkey’s east on terrorism charges, and to those killed during a pogrom against Greeks, Jewish people, and Armenians in Istanbul on September 6-7, 1955. He said they would make amends for the Soma mining disaster of 2014, in which 301 people died. They would make amends, he said, for those on both the right and the left killed by the state, especially in the aftermath of the 1980 coup.
In other words, he set out to reckon with some - but not all - of the horrendous events that often go unacknowledged in Turkey’s history.
In his statement from prison, Demirtaş said Kılıçdaroğlu’s effort was “valuable.” Demirtaş and the HDP have indicated support for the CHP alliance in the lead-up to the planned 2023 election. He said that the effort, after a change in power, needs to be carried out by the state but its sentiment needs to be absorbed by all politicians and by the Turkish population.
“This responsibility is not the CHP's nor is it only Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu’s,” Demirtaş said. “Everyone, especially politicians, has to take responsibility with sincerity and courage. They have to participate in this [amendment process] in accordance with their share of responsibility for what happened.”
He emphasized that this should not be a political calculation or a means of vote-getting, but rather an effort to act morally and right past wrongs.
“Everyone should understand that this is not a subject to be approached with simple vote calculations,” he said. “Moreover, the public will certainly appreciate the politician who sincerely puts forth his self-criticism.”
He said that as politicians, they have a responsibility to acknowledge the wrongs that have occurred and their repercussions in the present. He said that they need to abandon “identity politics” - in other words, phrasing this as a Kurdish, or Armenian, or Greek, or Turkish issue - and work together to right their shortcomings, mistakes, and failure to advance issues like the Kurdish conflict or acknowledgment of ethnic violence in Turkey.
“It is our responsibility to confront these things and make amends,” Demirtaş wrote. “Remember, being able to sincerely apologize and make amends is not a weakness, it is courageous and virtuous.”