Pro-Kurdish HDP hold rallies ahead of Turkey referendum

“The policy [the government] is pursuing is one of silencing the people, the opposition, democratic voices.”

ISTANBUL, Turkey (Kurdistan24) – Turkey’s Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on Saturday stepped up efforts against empowering President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with rallies in Istanbul and Adana, two cities where it has a significant voter base.

In Istanbul’s Kadikoy district, HDP lawmakers appealed to thousands of their supporters to vote “no” in the April 16 referendum on whether to give executive powers to Erdogan’s mainly ceremonial office.

HDP, the second-largest opposition party, whose Co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas, Figen Yuksekdag, as well as 10 other MPs remain in prison, has assumed a leading role in the “no” campaign against transferring powers currently held by the Parliament to Erdogan.

Veteran Kurdish politician, and dismissed Co-mayor of the city of Mardin, Ahmet Turk compared the current state of affairs in Turkey to “fascism.”

Moreover, Turk said it would “crush the peoples” if a package of constitutional reforms to be voted was approved in the upcoming referendum.

“The policy [the government] is pursuing is one of silencing the people, the opposition, democratic voices,” Turk told the crowd, according to a Kurdistan24 correspondent following the event.

Turk added a stronger Erdogan would further endanger Kurdish gains in Syria where they have created a self-declared autonomous region known as “Rojava.”

Meanwhile, HDP lawmaker Sirri Sureyya Onder said the referendum was not a “matter of yes or no” but one of war and peace.

Between the years 2012–2015, Onder was a member of a negotiating team between the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

He urged Turks and Kurds to vote against “a mentality” that ended the initial peace talks.

During the November 2015 general elections, HDP won seven lawmaker seats from Istanbul where several million Kurds live.

In Adana, the southern Mediterranean city, HDP MPs Osman Baydemir and Mizgin Irgat addressed to people “there [were] no place for the Kurds, Kurdistan, and workers” in the proposed constitutional changes.


Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

(Ercan Dag contributed to this report from Istanbul)