HAMRA, Beirut—Two parliamentarians representing the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of Turkey—Garo Paylan and Tulay Hatimogullari Oruc —met with a group of Lebanese, Kurdish, Palestinian and Armenian intellectuals, researchers and activists at the J Hotel in Beirut on Monday to discuss the political situation in Turkey, HDP’s position regarding the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections and Ankara’s military expansionist policy toward Syria. The discussion was organized by leftist Lebanese intellectuals.
MP Oruc, an Arab Alevi MP from Adana and member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, explained the grave political situation in Turkey and the government’s oppression of minorities and political activists. She also elaborated on Turkey’s weak and non-existent relations with almost all of its surrounding countries. She stressed that Turkey must seek peace and play a positive role in Syria. She also said that there is so much blood under this soil, hinting at the region, as much as there is oil and gas. Hence, to avoid bloodshed, she said these differences must be resolved through dialogue.
According to Oruc, there is a great power competition in the region and Turkey is becoming a tool for these great powers. Hence, the people must ensure that they will prevent great powers from intervening in Turkey’s domestic politics. Hinting at the region, the MP also added that Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is using Palestine for domestic consumption and regional legitimacy. She condemned Turkey’s military interventions in Northern Syria and Iraq and concluded that the peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict should be addressed not only from a political angle, but also humanitarian since Turkey hosts around four million refugees.
MP Paylan, an Armenian MP from Diyarbekir/Dikranagerd, talked about the ideology and goal of the HDP; he underscored that it is not a Kurdish party, but a transnational party. Paylan discussed the roots of the failure of the “peace plan” with the Turkish government during the 2013-2015 negotiations which aimed to find a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue and explained how later President Erdogan used this failure as a pretext to crush the human rights movements and the rights of the Kurds in Turkey. He added that Erdogan used this failure as a pretext to consolidate his ties with the ultranationalist National Movement Party (MHP). Paylan also raised concerns that now President Erdogan is betting to shut down the HDP amid a legal case against the Party; the Turkish government may facilitate this process before the general elections next year.
MP Paylan also drew parallels between what happened during WWI and the current domestic developments in Turkey. “What happened with the Armenians 106 years ago, that is the Armenian Genocide. The same could be repeated with the Kurds if the Turkish state prepares the ground and takes the opportunity,” said Paylan. “The Armenians back then were calling for equal rights for all Ottoman citizens and not just for them. Today, the Kurds are doing the same. HDP is not a separatist political party. It is simply calling for peace and equality for all citizens.”
Commenting on a question about whether the HDP can unite with the opposition to oust President Erdogan, MP Paylan said it is still too early to tell and the Party is engaging in negotiations. He warned that the opposition is also authoritarian and nationalist. He added that in June 2021, HDP provided 11 points to engage in negotiations with the six parties that organized the opposition, but the opposition has yet to respond. For this reason, he argued that HDP could help in bringing Turkey out of its authoritarian and militaristic situation.
In regards to another question about Turkey’s expansionist and militarist role in the region, the Armenian MP added that Turkey is being used as a proxy of great powers and that its backing of Azerbaijan during the 2020 war “was neither a victory for Turkey nor Azerbaijan, but for Russia. The same is true in Syria where Turkey’s intervention is only consolidating the Russian-American influence in the area.” He used Greece as an example. “Every time Erdogan is threatening to capture the Greek islands, the Greeks are asking the Americans to build additional bases in their country. Hence, Erdogan’s policy is only serving US imperialism in the region.”
Both MPs concluded that ethnic and religious groups should cooperate with each other to coexist and struggle against authoritarian regimes that seek to destroy multiculturalism and diversity in the region.
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