Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) began its Democracy March on June 15 under heavy police presence and detentions.
The party began its march from the western province of Edirne and the southeastern province of Hakkari, which is expected to end in the capital Ankara on June 20.
The march was kicked off after two HDP deputies and one main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker were stripped of their parliamentary statuses.
HDP deputies Leyla Güven and Musa Farisoğulları and CHP lawmaker Enis Berberoğlu were arrested after losing their statuses. Berberoğlu was released as part of the coronavirus (COVID-19) measures, while Güven was released to be sentenced to house arrest.
At least 10 people were detained in Istanbul’s Silivri when police dispersed HDP members heading to Edirne for the march. Tear gas and rubber bullets were also used.
HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan and party lawmakers made a statement to the press following police intervention, saying that the HDP won’t stop marching.
“Via banning entries and exits to plenty of cities, you adopted anti-democratic and unconstitutional measures. These measures won’t prevent the HDP from meeting the public,” Buldan said.
“This march will continue until peace, freedoms and democracy come to this country,” she added.
The group then headed to Edirne, where former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş is imprisoned.
In Hakkari, heavy police presence was seen all over the province, with riot police waiting in front of official buildings.
HDP co-chair Mithat Sancar spoke to the press before the march began, saying that “the march is for democracy against coups.”
“Not recognizing the law and the constitution is being putschists. We are here for justice and freedoms. We’re marching for Güven, Farisoğulları and Berberoğlu. We’re marching for Selahattin Demirtaş and [jailed former HDP co-chair] Figen Yüksekdağ. We’re marching for Osman Kavala and the journalists held behind bars unlawfully,” Sancar said.
“We’re marching to bring justice to this country and a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue,” he added.
The party then began its march, but was met with police barricades. An argument erupted between the party members and police, which was followed by the HDP continuing its march towards the eastern province of Van.
In Van, police encircled the party’s provincial building and forbade entrances and exits to it.
A day earlier, Demirtaş voiced support to the march, saying that it’s a call for the 82 million people in Turkey to unite.
“No one should make this event a tool for polarization and tensions,” Demirtaş said.
CHP Group Deputy Chair Özgür Özel, meanwhile, slammed police intervention into the march.
“This is the limitation of a constitutional right. What’s happening increases the perception of a police state and harms the principles of democracy and law,” Özel said.