United We Stand, Divided We Fall
The young D’Artagnan travels to Paris with an introduction letter for Monsieur de Tréville, the King’s Captain of the Musketeers. He meets Athos, Porthos and Aramis at de Tréville’s house, who will become his firm friends, but, for a confirmation of friendship they challenge him to a duel. Luckily, before any of the duels can take place, the Cardinal’s guards confront the three musketeers and D’Artagnan with their guards. There’s a fight that the musketeers win, and turning towards Athos and his friends, D’Artagnan says:
“Gentlemen, allow me to correct your words, if you please. You said you were but three, but it appears to me we are four.”
“But you are not one of us,” said Porthos.
“That’s true,” replied D’Artagnan; “I have not the uniform, but I have the spirit. My heart is that of a Musketeer; I feel it, monsieur, and that impels me on.”
And, d’Artagnan becomes, an unofficial “fourth musketeer.” But he will not become an official musketeer until later in the famous novel of “Les Trois Mousquetaires “written by Alexander Dumas. It is a thrilling tale of bravery, brotherhood and the triumph of good over evil, known by the motto of unity “all for one, one for all” (tous pour un, un pour tous)
In recent days, in particular, “Unity” has to be the only concept and discourse. Following the victory of the mayoral ship of Istanbul by Ekram Imamoğlu (the candidate of the CHP -Republican People’s Party), the prolonged period of objection of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) and the rerun decision of the YSK (Supreme Election Board); once again it is clear that this is no longer about elections. Turkey had been practicing democracy despite all its problems and interruptions of several coups, following YSK’s re-election decision on May 6 and its illogical justification, it can be easily concluded that democracy is currently in the “suspension” period. Therefore, for the opposition bloc, there is no other way but to unite and act together. The common ground needed is as clear as crystal, with all its tools it will be pluralism, rule of law and democracy, however, once again, the heterogeneous structure of opposition must be put forward and the differences should urgently be analyzed.
Athos, Porthos, Aramis
As we all know, opposition groups are not homogeneous; some follow the love of homeland, their republic, and deep love for founding leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his revolutions, while some prioritize all sorts of ethnic and religious rights, and some merely seek an independent, democratic, secular state ; or different combinations of all. In Turkish politics, let’s meet the three musketeers by referring to the well-known novel. Athos is the eldest of the comrades representing the values of the old aristocracy and associating him with important ancestors, and from time to time he has a dated attitude. According to this description, by being the founding party of the republic, Athos can represent CHP and its grassroots in Turkish politics. As a further note, his wise approach and intellectual ability can be an affinity to the left wing of Turkey. Aramis was expected to become a priest because he was brought up in a monastery. We can therefore conclude with the right-wing conservatives (the followers of ANAP, probably DYP tradition) and opposed religion-oriented parties such as the Saadet (Felicity) Party. Porthos is a loud, brash, self-important fighter who is proud of himself, so, he can definitely represent the Turkish nationalists. We have one missing character from the novel; D’Artagnan.
D’Artagnan is the protagonist of Alexandre Dumas’s novel The Three Musketeers. He is a young, impoverished Gascon nobleman who comes to Paris. He is brave, noble, ambitious, and crafty. With all his mentioned merits D’Artagnan can symbolize the pro-Kurdish party and their grassroots. Although Kurdish political movement has a long history, migration to Ankara, in other words, being in the Parliament can be named as square one.
The political journey that began with the People’s Labor Party (HEP) in 1990 continued with the Democracy Party (DEP), ÖZDEP, the People’s Democracy Party (HADEP), the Democratic People’s Party (DEHAP), the Democratic Society Party (DTP), the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and finally the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). The name of the party has changed many times from the HEP to the HDP for similar reasons, MPs have been arrested and many deputies have been dismissed.
The Kurdish political movement’s first parliamentary representation began on 7 June 1990, in which Fehmi Işıklar was HEP’s chairman. In the October 20, 1991 general elections, HEP made an alliance with SHP, and Fehmi Işıklar, Hatip Dicle, Leyla Zana, Ahmet Türk, Orhan Doğan, Sırı Sakık, etc. were elected as the 19th-term representatives of the SHP in Parliament. The deputies elected from the SHP list had resigned from SHP due to lawsuits filed against HEP and set up a DEP group in parliament. Leyla Zana came to the bench during the swearing-in ceremony with a bandana of green, yellow and red colors that are the PKK flag colors. She spoke one sentence in Kurdish after she finished her oath.
The crisis, which started with Zana’s Kurdish vow, continued until immunities were removed in 94. In 1994, immunity was lifted from Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Sirri Sakik, Orhan Dogan, Ahmet Turk and Mahmut Alınak; and, Orhan Dogan and Hatip Dicle were detained on the same day. The police had taken two MPs from the parliament, which was one of the shameful days of Turkish democracy. 8 MPs including Leyla Zana, Ahmet Turk, Sirri Sakik, Hatip Dicle, Orhan Dogan were arrested on 16 March and imprisoned following a verdict by the State Security Court (DGM) on charges of “acts of treason and separating part of state land from government and establishing an independent state on those lands.” On June 16, 1994, the Constitutional Court closed the DEP and the new HADEP party won one and a half million votes in parliamentary elections the following year, but the ten percent election threshold was the biggest obstacle to their entry into parliament.
In the 1999 local elections, a total of 37 municipalities were won, including the Metropolitan Municipality of Diyarbakır. On March 13, 2003, HADEP was closed by the Constitutional Court on the grounds that it had assisted and supported the PKK terrorist organization and became the focus of illegal acts, and for five years the party leaders were banned from politics.
In 2004, DEP deputies Orhan Dogan, Hatip Dicle, Selim Sadak and Leyla Zana were released from prison and a new political movement called the Democratic Society Movement (DTH) was established the following year. DTP sent MPS to Parliament after the 2007 elections, including Selahattin Demirtaş, Leyla Zana and Gültan Kışanak. The Constitutional Court unanimously decided on 11 December 2009 to close the DTP and impose a five-year political ban on 37 people and dismiss the deputies of Ahmet Türk and Aysel Tuğluk. A new parliamentary group called the Peace and Democracy Party was formed on May 2, 2008. After the extraordinary congress on February 1, 2010, Selahattin Demirtaş became the chair. 61 independent candidates were elected during the general elections of 2011. With 6, 58 votes, they cast 36 deputies.
In the solution process that began in 2013 and ended in July 2015, BDP played an active role. Meanwhile, a new party called the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) was established and co-chaired by Ertuğrul Kürkçü and Sebahat Tuncel on October 2013. The parties have joined the People’s Democratic Party, such as the Peace and Democracy Party, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, etc.
The HDP collected 13.6 percent of the votes in the June 7, 2015 elections and had 80 MPs in the parliament. However, AKP’s coalition negotiations failed and elections took place on November 1, 2015, winning 10, 76 and 59 MPs in the renewed election.
Trenches were dug in many district centers in the new process, which began with actual self-management announcements, and barricades were built. Curfews had been announced and operations for security have started. There was an intense period of conflict. After that, trustees were appointed to several provincial and district municipalities of pro-Kurdish party and many of their members were arrested.
On November 2016, the two joint leaders of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) — Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ — and at least 10 MPs were detained due to their reluctance to give testimony for “terrorist propaganda” related crimes. Nevertheless, in June 2018 general elections HDP had 11.7% of the votes in June 2018 general elections, but more importantly they had 12.7% in Istanbul, 6.4% in Ankara, 11.5% in Izmir, 16.9% in Mersin, 7.3% in Antalya and 13.5% in Adana.
HDP’s declared that it would not nominate mayoral candidates in the municipal elections in seven major municipalities, including Istanbul, Ankara and lzmir, and that it would vote in favor of candidates running against the People’s Alliance (AKP+MHP). The pro — Kurdish party’s primary role, however, was its “undermining the People’s Alliance’s votes in the West” strategy; meaning calling on its supporters to vote for opposition candidates in Western cities where there are quite large number of Kurdish voters; i.e. Istanbul, Adana, Mersin, Antalya. In addition, Selahattin Demirtaş sent a message from the prison day before the local election on March 31, calling on his supporters to vote for the opposition through the interview with Yeni Yaşam Newspaper, saying “Bear your cross if necessary, but go to the polls and cast your vote, which means ‘no to fascism ‘. The results of the election can provide an opportunity for the development of democracy and peace.”
All for one, one for all
Following the local elections, there is no doubt that Kurdish votes are totally a game — changer in Turkish political arena, yet, the parties in Nation Alliance (CHP, IYI Party) continue to the same old hesitant and fearful attitude. Pro- Kurdish party still remains as a fairly large elephant in the room. The crucial element here is each party’s position on the Kurdish issue. Without Kurdish people and/or pro-Kurdish party, walking to a brighter future is impossible. The opposition bloc’s Achilles’ heel is the Kurdish issue. The alliance elements include Turkish nationalists who have an inflexible and resistive attitude towards the issue, which over the years has been proven to be wrong. Also, it is essential for the pro-Kurdish party HDP to make an accurate decision on its position in this alliance; and, of course, other opposition groups should also clearly demonstrate their relationship with the HDP.
Even so, nowadays, although it is baby steps, there are promising progresses as a beam of light, such as Kılıçdaroğlu met with some Eastern and Southeastern opinion leaders and delivered important messages on the Kurdish issue. Kılıçdaroğlu said the Kurdish problem has been the subject of the processes behind closed doors so far. “Discussions should be made transparent. All citizens have the right to learn and write their own language, but mother tongue demands should be discussed in parliament. The environment of trust should be ensured and the weapon eliminated. It is learned that nothing can be achieved with the weapon.”
Ekrem Imamoglu, Istanbul’s CHP mayoral candidate, who was on a TV program, answered questions about former HDP co-president Selahattin Demirtas who had been detained in Edirne Prison. “I am one of those who, during his presidential candidacy, followed Mr Demirtaş. I did not meet him in person. I wish I’d come across him. He managed the process in a language needed by the country. I mentioned that I like politics in that way. I want that language to be on the agenda of everyone,” he replied.
This re-election clearly indicates that this is no longer about elections. But it’s about reuniting, coming together again for the greater good for restoring a democratic country with rule of law from the ashes of the past 17 years. Thus, it is not optional to form unity, on the contrary; and, D’Artagnan must join the musketeers. If there is intention of mutual understanding, the common ground and solutions to countless problems can be found, although it will definitely be a painful process for all fractions.
Unity was previously experienced in Gezi Park Protests, which harbored a massive potential for social and political transformation over the polarization caused by conflict history, and also increased public perception of political conflict by sweeping away the classical left — right and secular-Islamist confrontations. Without direct political party and fractional initiation, it mobilized different groups. In other words, unity between different groups was once achieved, so with different tools it can be done again.
In short, let me reiterate the words of D’Artagnan “Gentlemen, allow me to correct your words, if you please. You said you were but three, but it appears to me we are four.” Lastly, the motto for a better future in a democratic country is quite simple:
“All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.”