Demirtaş: Turks have to understand that the Kurdish struggle for democracy in the past is for everyone

Our presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş gave an interview to Rudaw:

Imprisoned Kurdish presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas gave Rudaw English an exclusive interview through his lawyer. The HDP's front man explains that going to prison was his choice and he could have fled. He sees unemployment, poverty, justice, security, health and education problems as the main issues facing the people of Turkey.

He says he and Nechirvan Barzani have an 'intimate friendship.' But he believes if the KRG leader were to help Turkey diplomatically, it would be an 'unfair' request and undermine Demirtas' stance that Turkey's judiciary is already under too much political pressure.

Demirtas is still hopeful: 'I believe that Kurdistan’s people can overcome these difficult times together' and 'Turks have to understand that the Kurdish struggle for democracy in the past is for everyone and that it benefits all Turkish community.'

Rudaw English: Do you believe that you will be president?

Selahattin Demirtas, HDP presidential candidate: Of course I do. Politics requires being assertive. So far, we have always been very ambitious, insistent and successful. Looking at Turkey’s current conditions, there is no need to be disappointed and pessimistic. We have come to this point by always pursuing our dreams of freedom and democracy. Che [Guevara] has a saying: "Be realistic, ask for the impossible."

Some news agencies claim that you have run for the presidency in order to be released from jail. What do you say to that?

Giving up all kinds of personal interests for the sake of my people, I continued the struggle without compromising. I could have escaped and I would not go to jail. But then HDP would be divided and would not be united again. If there is a hope today, it is because of the position we have held inside and outside the prison. I could not abandon thousands of brave children of people in prisons and run away. 

Leading the party from abroad would be impossible and unconvincing. If I wanted, I could be a candidate for parliamentary membership and be released from jail by regaining immunity. My friends suggested this to me, but I care about the freedom of people, not my personal freedom. However, if our people are free, we will be free as well. Rather than taking simple assessment on me into consideration, it would be fairer to be practical when commenting.  

What do you think of the opposition's request for your release? Why did not they come to this demand before the election date was announced? Could this be propaganda?

Skipping the timing discussion, I would like to say that these calls are important and meaningful. I think they are also useful in terms of political results. In politics, instead of questioning intention, it is more useful to focus on the results. 

What are the main concerns of the people of Turkey?

The most serious problem is the economy. Unemployment and poverty have reached the extreme. Justice, security, health and education problems follow. The common cause and reason for all of these problems is the question of democracy. As HDP, we are producing reasonable and feasible solution projects on these issues which are surely effective. 

As you know, you are in prison now. How much election campaigning can you do under prison conditions?

I do not have much opportunity here. Actually, my friends from outside are managing the campaigning. I can only provide small contributions. Ultimately, running a campaign in prison is impossible. 

Your lawyer stated that you would be released a few days later. Do you believe you will stay free?

My lawyers are in a very serious legal battle and they are doing their best. But law and the judiciary do not work in Turkey. Politics has a heavy pressure on the judiciary. The people will decide if I'm going to leave here, not the judiciary. I would not be here if there was a judiciary working justly. 

Do you think that KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani can play a role in your freedom?

We have an intimate friendship with Mr Nechirvan Barzani. He is an influential political actor in the region. But I do not expect such a thing neither from him nor from any other political actor. On the contrary, I support the fact that the judiciary should no longer act under political pressure. I have no doubt that Mr Barzani sincerely wants my freedom but it would be unfair to provide him with such a role and mission. 

We will all struggle together for the freedom of our people. If our people win and are free, it is enough for us. Hereby, I want to send my greetings and love to him, Mr Masoud Barzani and all other political leaders and the people of the Kurdistan Region. I believe that Kurdistan’s people can overcome these difficult times together. 

Why is the international community silent regarding your imprisonment? Is it because that this situation is not in line with their interests?

The international community is not silent, only their leaders are silent. They do not always compromise on their interests when it comes to democratic and human rights values. Recently, we saw the same two-faced position when they were silent about the attacks on Kurdistan referendum and Kirkuk. 

Certainly, Kurds will learn lessons from this. Everything has a time. Allah is great. Our people should have faith in and trust their own governance and national unity, not others. Together we will overcome these difficult days in a short time. Those who think that Kurds are divided and finished will be embarrassed because of their silence.

If the elections enter the second round, whom will you support as HDP?

I will stay in the second round and HDP will once again support me. That is all for now. 

What is your message for Kurds and Turkish community?

The Kurdish people will have a free, honorable and equal life in this century. The level to which our struggle has reached is now irreversible. From time to time, we have an uninterrupted search and determination to lead our people in the right direction, even if we have deficiencies and mistakes in politics. Today we will not waste time by following small accounts and interests. We cannot waste our energy with unnecessary debate. We have to strengthen our inner peace and alliance with a spirit of national unity.

Turks have to understand that the Kurdish struggle for democracy in the past is for everyone and that it benefits all Turkish community. If our peoples can cooperate together for an equal and free life, we can solve all our problems through peace. For this, HDP needs to be strengthened politically. In this framework, I urge everybody to cling to HDP with a sense of historical responsibility. 

Interview by: Karwan Faidhi Dri 
30 May 2018