Prison and Elections in 15 Questions: bianet Asks, Demirtaş Answers

Bianet' interview with our presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş:

Answering the questions of bianet from the prison where he is kept, HDP's presidential candidate Demirtaş has explained how he keeps fit, his meeting program, his first practice when he is elected and his candidacy period in prison.

Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Presidential Candidate Selahattin Demirtaş has answered our questions from Edirne Type F Prison where he is kept.

Have a nice reading of the interview in which Demirtaş has used a waggish language in responding to our questions.

“I’ve witnessed people’s prejudices breaking down”

-We’d like to learn of your meeting program…

Unlike all candidates who wander freely and organize their meetings, I can only send a couple of messages outside via my lawyers. Of course the HDP will have a public meeting program and HDP will explain its program at these meetings. However, it is only me as the candidate who can explain our proposals concerning the Presidency but at the moment, I’m deprived of all these rights.

-Your rivals have been organizing public meetings on every occasion. How many openings have you attended in the recent year?

Since one of my rivals run his campaign by using state’s all resources while I am in a cell, there is almost no opening which I attended. He can make a lot of openings by using state’s means. I’ve witnessed awakening of many judiciary and prison personnel, who didn’t know me well. I’ve seen with my own eyes how their prejudices have been broken down. So, I attended many “awakening openings” here.

The most disadvantageous candidate

-We know and predict the disadvantages of being in prison. But, are there any advantages?

Being in prison especially as a Presidential candidate during election period doesn’t have even a single advantage. At the moment, when compared to other candidates, I am the most disadvantageous one. Attempting to normalize this situation would be a great injustice for our voters.

-Your rivals call out to masses by going door to door in presidential competition. You don’t have the chance to do that since you are in prison. As far as you see, which topics are lacking in your rivals’ discourses?

Of course I closely follow speeches of all candidates. No candidate could present a vision, which is centered on freedoms yet. None of them has such capacity nor mentality. Voters haven’t heard a significant idea or project concerning freedoms because that candidate is HDP’s candidate but he couldn’t appear before the voters and tell those things yet.

“My kettle* doesn’t have any reception :)”

-What will be your first practice when you win?

I will invite all political party leaders around a table and try to seek consensus to form a joint program and a course of action with respect to transiting to democracy.

-Thanks to the election, we could see your photos one after another. How do you manage to keep fit?

I try not to eat too much and also do some exercise.

-How do you motivate yourself while preparing your speeches? How will you sustain your election campaign under prison conditions? Your recent tweet about the kettle has made a strong impact.

It’s indeed not very easy. In here, both means are limited, and focusing on the subject and being motivated are very difficult. But still, I am trying to be informed with the support of my lawyer friends and party headquarters and join the campaign with the speeches I prepared within this frame. My kettle doesn’t work all the time, it doesn’t have reception here anyway : )

"I would like to make an album”

-We have heard that your photograph to be used on the voting papers was taken by a prison warden at the open air area of your cell. Considering that the voters, whom you can directly contact, are the prison wardens, how are your election works aimed at them proceeding?

Since all prison wardens are state officials, we do not discuss political issues very often. They fulfill their duties within the limits of courtesy and rules. But, I think they know that the candidate who is aware of the problems encountered by them as workers the most is me. They all respect me and my political identity and I approach them with respect, too. Of course, I cannot know what they will do while voting.

-Erdoğan called you a “popstar”? Are you currently working on a new album?

Erdoğan used this expression to despise me. But, I love music very much, I am interested in music. It is not something to despise. I compose music pieces here, as well. I would like to make my own album one day, too. Though it is not my goal to be a “star”, I believe that I can deliver so good a performance to embarrass the ones who despise me in that respect. When my album is released, I am sure that he will also listen to it in secret, I have no doubt about that.

His response to journalist Ahmet Hakan

-Journalist Ahmet Hakan has stated, “Demirtaş is sure to turn his prison sentence into a victimhood and this victimhood into votes.” Would you recommend the young politicians who want to enter politics to make themselves imprisoned in order to increase their votes?

I am not a victim here. I am a resister who has been taken hostage due to my thoughts and political situation as one of the representatives of the freedom struggle. Going into prison was not my preference, but I believe that when I was put in here, I could maintain my stance by standing straight. Society does not regard everyone who is imprisoned as a victim or embraces them. If they embrace me, it is not because I am a victim, but because of my proud stance. And I do not recommend anyone to get themselves imprisoned by listening to Ahmet Hakan and acting in haste.

-You are a person of multiple portraits: Painter, author, musician, politician, attorney? In which of them do you find peace the most?

In music.

-What was the last time when you got angry and at whom?

Here, you learn anger management by necessity. But, when I hear about the failing works at our party headquarters, I sometimes get angry.

"Ugh. Really T A M A M (Enough)**"

-What were the best 3 decisions that you have taken in your life?

I have never done such a ranking but Başak, Delal and Dılda are good decisions for me.

-Who is your favorite poet? Can you answer with a stanza of his or her?

"Maybe we're in the last dark days

Maybe we'll see the first good days

There's something pungent about this mood

It's between the past and the future

Between agony and delight

Between fury and forgiveness"

Cemal Süreya

-Are we bored, is it enough?

Ugh. Really T A M A M (Enough) now… (TP/TK/SD)

* A search was carried out in the prison due to tweets posted on Selahattin Demirtaş's Twitter account. The tweet "Naturally no tweet could be found in the room. There was just kettle for tea, and it was concluded that a kettle cannot post a tweet", was posted on the account, which was recently opened by Demirtaş's lawyers and party officials.

** In the wake of President and Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan saying, "In case our nations say 'enough', we will step aside'; 2 million "enough" (tamam) tweets were posted; the word took first place worldwide on Twitter.

Interview: Tansu Pişkin
18 May 2018