Turkey’s Parliament today passed a bill to strip progressive members of their immunity. Loud and Clear speaks with Kani Xulam, director of the Kurdish American Information Network, to discuss whether the bill, introduced by the increasingly dictatorial President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AK Party, will be used to silence opposition and dissent.
“The bill targets 130 members of parliament. A vast majority of them are members of the HDP (People’s Democratic Party of Turkey),” Xulam tells Loud and Clear, adding that he believes Erdogan will use this bill to give himself sole control of the Turkish government.
“So what you’re saying is that President Erdogan, who has been acting as the head of state, in order to consolidate his power, had to first deal with the HDP, which is mostly Kurdish with progressive people in it,” suggested host Brian Becker, adding that if the HDP were to remain a presence in parliament, “it would dilute Erdogan’s personal power,” and that explains why Erdogan “scuttled the ceasefire with the Kurds, resumed war in Southeastern Turkey and now is attempting to strip immunity from members of parliament who are associated with the HDP, so that they can be arrested put in jail.”
Xulam agreed, responding: “[Erdogan] wants to be the absolute ruler… he wants a pliable parliament. He wants a parliament that doesn’t want Kurdish votes.”
“He basically wants to have his say and have immunity for himself,” he said, adding that “he and his ministers have been accused of siphoning millions of dollars, especially in December in 2013, but those cases were not brought before the courts.”
Loud and Clear asked Xulam about the shift in the Turkish political landscape following Erdogan’s initiation of a campaign against the HDP.
“Normally, in a functioning parliamentary system,” Xulam said, “the parties that didn’t win the majority should have a coalition government. Erdogan blocked that, and then began a campaign of intimidation. Bombs began exploding at Kurdish rallies. In October 2015 two suicide bombers killed 103 Turks and Kurds in Ankara, it was at a peace rally.” Xulam stated that Erdogan’s political offensive shows no sign of slowing. “Now the campaign of intimidation has increased. Erdogan is counting on this, he basically wants the Kurds to stay below the 10% threshold so then they will have no representation. Which means that winner takes all, and then his party would take all the votes in the Kurdish areas.”Xulam suggests that Erdogan’s ending of the ceasefire with the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) is an attempt to create a civil war in Turkey in order to, “increase the level of jingoistic national fervor against the Kurds,” and rally Turks behind his AK Party.
Xulam insists that the Turkish parliament must remain balanced, so that minorities in the country do not become increasingly oppressed.
“It’s an issue of democracy. Turkey doesn’t want to come to terms with the Kurdish reality, and claims to be a democratic state, but doesn’t act like a democratic state.”