Crackdown on the Kurdish Political Movement and Opposition Groups: 2022 in Review

The Turkish government has stepped up its crackdown on the Kurdish political movement in 2022, aiming to weaken the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), the third-largest political party in parliament. The HDP currently faces the threat of being shut down ahead of general elections in May, and in December Turkey’s chief prosecutor asked the Constitutional Court to strip the HDP of government funding over alleged ties to an outlawed terrorist organization.

In 2022 several opposition groups also came under severe pressure and Turkish authorities detained individuals associated with such groups. The year’s detentions signaled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to step up pressure on critical groups and individuals inside and outside Turkey.

Despite rulings by Turkey’s Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Selahattin Demirtas, the former leader of the HDP and an outspoken critic of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, President Erdogan, remains behind bars on politically motivated charges. ) Several former HDP politicians are also in pre-trial detention or serving prison sentences after being convicted of terrorist offenses for non-violent political activities, speeches and social media postings.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ankara has dismissed a total of 151 elected mayors on terrorism charges in the past seven years, almost all from the HDP, replacing them with government-appointed bureaucrats. State-appointed trustees now manage almost all towns and cities in southeastern Turkey.

In December an Istanbul court sentenced Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), to two years and seven months in prison and banned him from politics for insulting members of Turkey’s Supreme Board of Elections (YSK).

Turkish police detained Alparslan Kuytul, the leader of the Furkan Foundation, an anti-government religious group, in May. Its members protested the arrest of their founder and the crackdown on their activities in various provinces during the year. On several occasions the police intervened in their demonstrations with tear gas and used excessive force against the protesters.

Here are some important news from 2022 about the Kurdish political movement and the ongoing crackdown on opposition groups:

Turkey has moved to defund a pro-Kurdish party

Turkey’s chief prosecutor has asked the Constitutional Court to strip the HDP of government funding because of its ties to an outlawed terrorist organization. The HDP, the second-largest opposition group in parliament, faces the threat of being shut down ahead of general elections in May. more..

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ECtHR says Turkey has arrested pro-Kurdish politicians and ordered their release to suppress pluralism

In November the ECtHR ruled that Turkey had violated the rights of 13 former HDP lawmakers in pretrial detention to suppress pluralism and limit freedom of political debate, and ordered the release of two of them.

The ECtHR handed down its judgment to Figen Yuxekdag and 12 other politicians: Idris Baluken, Besim Konka, Abdullah Zeidan, Nihat Akdokan, Selma Irmak, Ferhat Nq, Gulser Yildirim, Nursel Bilek, Nursel Aydor, more..

The CoE urged Turkey’s High Court to quickly end Demirtaş’s detention trial

The Council of Europe’s (CoE) Ministers’ Deputies Committee in September asked Turkey’s Constitutional Court to expedite an application from Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas for continued detention in line with previous rulings of the ECtHR. more..

In 2016 the ECtHR ruled that Turkey had violated MPs’ rights by removing immunity.

The ECtHR ruled that Turkey violated freedom of expression by lifting the parliamentary immunity of 40 former HDP lawmakers. Prosecution of members of parliament has been possible since the CHP and other opposition parties supported a proposal presented in 2016 to expel representatives from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Immunity from prosecution. The immunity of all deputies facing prosecution at the time was lifted in May 2016. And through their further investigation, the government was ordered to pay 5,500 euros to each applicant. more..

The Istanbul mayor’s imprisonment and political ban have sparked international condemnation

In December an Istanbul court sentenced Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu to two years and seven months in prison and banned him from politics for insulting YSK members. A conviction and political ban must be upheld by an appellate court after a petition is filed.

The sentence drew strong criticism from high-ranking officials in Europe and the US, including mayors of major European cities who expressed solidarity with İmamoğlu. more..

Court acquits thug who attacked HDP office in Istanbul

In January, an Istanbul court ruled that the man accused of attacking the HDP building in Istanbul’s Bahelievler district should be released from detention. The assailant, identified as Muhammad Eren Suto, armed with a gun and a knife, injured two party workers in the attack. more..

Kurdish MP injured in police intervention at protest in SE Turkey

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HDP lawmaker Habip Exik was injured during a demonstration in the southeastern province of Hakkari in October to protest the 1999 arrest of the leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). more..

Supreme Court finds no rights violations in Kurdish politician’s lengthy pretrial detention

Turkey’s Constitutional Court found no rights violations in the five-year pre-trial detention of Kurdish politician Figen Yüksekdağ, which actually lasted three years, one month, describing the measure as disproportionate. In November 2016, Yüksekdağ was arrested along with several other Kurdish politicians in a massive crackdown on the HDP. more..

The crackdown on the anti-government Furqan religious base continued

Turkish police detained Alparslan Kuytul, the leader of the Furkan Foundation, an anti-government religious group, in May in connection with the abduction of a businessman in the southern province of Adana. More…

An outspoken critic of President Erdogan’s government policies, Kuytul and members of his foundation have faced growing pressure from the government for advocating that religion and politics should not mix, and criticized the AKP government for doing so.

Police in Adana sparked outrage when they used batons, plastic bullets and pepper spray to disperse members of the Furqan Foundation who wanted to hold a peaceful demonstration in March. more..

However, Devlet Baheli, leader of Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party, praised the excessive force used by police officers in Adana. more..

Foundation members were also beaten and detained by police in Osmaniye province in June. The inmates protested the closure of a private religious education center affiliated with their foundation. more..

Imprisoned Kurdish politician dies after 6 years in prison

In August, Mehmet Candemir, a former party council member of the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), died after being taken to a hospital from a prison in northern Turkey, serving a six-year sentence on terrorism charges. more..

Turkey frees Kurdish politician with dementia from prison

Kurdish politician Aysel Tughluq was released from prison in northwestern Turkey in October after a medical report said her dementia prevented her from staying behind bars. Tuğluk, 57, was deputy co-chair of the HDP before her arrest in 2016. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2018 for membership in a “terrorist organization”. more..

Turkish Parliament revokes parliamentary status of Kurdish MP

Turkey’s parliament stripped imprisoned HDP lawmaker Semra Guzel of her parliamentary status in December for insufficient attendance at legislative sessions. more..

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An opposition lawmaker has been prevented from leaving Turkey by a travel ban

Omer Farouk Gerzerlioglu, a lawmaker from the HDP and a prominent human rights defender, has been prevented from leaving Turkey by a travel ban despite having parliamentary immunity. more..

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the prison sentence of the opposition figure

Kenan Kaftansioglu

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals in May upheld the prison sentence of Kanan Kaftansioglu, head of the Istanbul branch of the country’s main opposition CHP. In 2019, 50-year-old Kaftansioglu was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison on multiple charges, including “spreading terrorist propaganda” and insulting President Erdogan. The charges relate to tweets Kaftancıoğlu posted between 2012 and 2017. She is free pending appeal. more..

At least 170 people were detained after police intervened in events marking the 9th anniversary of the Gezi protests

At least 170 people were detained as a result of police intervention in a demonstration in central Istanbul by a group seeking to commemorate the activists killed in the 2013 events, marking the ninth anniversary of the anti-government Gezi Park protests. more..

A sacked academic has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on terror charges

A Turkish court has sentenced Nuriye Gulmen, an academic who was fired from his job after the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey on charges of membership of a terrorist organization, to 10 years in prison.

She was detained and released several times in 2016 to protest the shooting along with sacked teacher Semih Ozakka on Ankara’s Yüksel Street, where they demanded reinstatement to their jobs in front of the Human Rights Monument. The memorial became a protest and demand for justice after other purge victims and activists joined them. Turkish police are believed to have used excessive force against protesters on Yuksel Street. more..

Arrest warrants have been issued for 50 women for alleged links to the PKK

Turkish prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for 50 women accused of membership in a terrorist organization as part of an investigation based on witness statements. more..

298 people were detained during Nowruz celebrations in Diyarbakir

Turkish police detained at least 298 people, including 74 minors, during Nowruz celebrations in March in southeastern Diyarbakir province. Nowruz is celebrated by Kurds as the first day of spring. However, Navruz celebrations are often marked by heavy police intervention. more..

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