Pro-Kurdish party boycotts Turkish Parliament opening

Instead, the HDP lawmakers went to the city of Edirne where authorities have been holding their co-leader, Selahattin Demirtas, in prison since last year.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - Turkey's pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) boycotted the opening ceremony of the Turkish parliament's new legislative year on Sunday as the opposition leader, Selahattin Demirtas, and ten other MPs remained in jail.

Instead, the HDP lawmakers went to the northwestern city of Edirne where authorities have been holding their co-leader Demirtas and other colleagues in a supermax prison since last year's massive, ongoing crackdown on the Kurdish political movement began.

HDP's deputy co-leader Meral Danis Bestas in a tweet said that the Ankara ceremony was illegitimate as long as lawmakers remained imprisoned across Turkey.

The crackdown has seen, apart from top HDP leadership, 80 mayors and over 2,500 members jailed.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who made a speech in Parliament, dismissed the HDP's protest and said the pro-Kurdish MPs' place was in Qandil.

Erdogan was referring to the Qandil mountain range straddling the Iraqi-Iranian border where the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has its main bases and headquarters.

His government accuses the HDP of being a political front for the banned PKK, which has been waging a decades-long guerrilla warfare against the Turkish state over successive governments' suppression of Kurdish rights and demands for self-rule.

"We are at the gates of Edirne Prison [to meet with Demirtas.] After the first fair elections, you know this will be your place," tweeted the HDP's Ertugrul Kurkcu in response to Erdogan.

On Saturday, the governorate of Edirne banned all walks, protests, gatherings, and other civic activities in a four-kilometer radius around the prison, citing security and public 'concern.'

Authorities did not allow the HDP group to visit Demirtas and MP Abdullah Zeydan who are staying in the same prison room.

The party's co-leader Serpil Kemalbay told reporters just outside the jail that the Parliament now belonged to "one man," and that Erdogan was trying to get rid of all opposition by 'any means within his reach.'

"We will never let his dreams come true," she said.


Editing by G.H. Renaud