ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party's first congress elects first co-presidents and expresses political determination
Selahattin Demirtaş. AA photo
Selahattin Demirtaş has been elected as chairman of the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, and Gülten Kışanak has been named co-chairman.
Monday’s meeting in Ankara was the first congress for the party and more than 450 members attended. They also voted for an administrative board.
The BDP was formed in early 2008, just a few months after the indictment against the Democratic Society Party, or DTP, was announced in November 2007. The Constitutional Court ruled to close the DTP due to its links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is listed as a terror organization by a number of international communities, including the European Union and the United States.
After their party was outlawed in December 2009, 19 DTP deputies joined the BDP.
Regardless of criticism from the international community and other political parties in Parliament, the BDP did not make a big distinction between it and the outlawed PKK when it held its first congress to elect a party leader and an administrative board under the theme of “Democratic Participation for Democratic Politics.”
The hall was decorated with big posters of mayors who were arrested under the scope of the police operations against an urban branch of the PKK.
Names of some killed PKK militants as well as arrested mayors were read out in a show of respect. Also, the national anthem was not played at the opening of the meeting, contrary to other political parties traditionally do.
A group in the audience raised posters of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and flags of the outlawed organization while the crowd chanted Kurdish slogans in favor of Öcalan.
Sevahir Bayındır, a deputy from Şırnak province, was elected as meeting chairman and then addressed the assembly in both Kurdish and Turkish.
Bayındır criticized the police crack down on the urban branch of the PKK shortly after the closure of the DTP in which dozens of mayors were arrested.
“You assert democracy and people’s sovereignty. What about [the arrested] mayors elected by the people? Those [arrested] are convicted in the public’s conscience,” Bayındır said.
BDP leader Demir Çelik entered the congress hall along with a group of deputies, including Selahattin Demirtaş and Gülten Kışanak.
“No matter whether its name is DTP or BDP, it is continuing the organized fight for Kurdish freedom,” Çelik said, claiming the government’s Kurdish initiative is part of efforts to damage the Kurdish struggle.
Demirtaş accused the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, of not being sincere to secure democratic standards in the country. “Those who hope the AKP will bring a solution will feel upset and tricked.”
Demirtaş, vowing to defeat the AKP, said: “This congress will be a landmark to defeat the AKP across the country and to wipe it out in the region, which is our stronghold.”
Kışanak, for her part, asserted a new administrative system for Turkey, which she called the “democratic autonomy model.” She also said, “Öcalan should be listened to if the government really wants to solve the Kurdish issue.”