Van Hollen and Lankford lead bipartisan push, urging President Biden to hold Erdogan accountable for crackdown on Turkish democracy

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September 30, 2021

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and James Lankford (R-Okla.) Led Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Thom Tillis (RN.C.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (DN.H.), Angus King (I-Maine), Cory Booker (DN.J.), Ed Markey (D-Mass. ) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in a letter urging President Biden to hold Turkish President Erdogan accountable for his recent efforts to deprive the Kurdish population of their civil rights, undermine political pluralism in the country and tighten its grip on the power by undemocratic means.

The Senators start, “We write with deep concern regarding the decision of the Turkish Constitutional Court in June 2021 to accept an indictment against the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), with the aim of dissolving the country’s third political party. “

“We urge you to strongly condemn President Erdogan’s growing efforts to dissolve the country’s largest pro-Kurdish political party and to work with our European partners to prevent a further democratic setback in Turkey,” They continue. They note, “In recent years, President Erdogan has waged a systematic campaign to restrict the rights of the HDP,” and goes on to detail the actions taken by President Erdogan.

They close the letter by declaring: “We urge you to uphold our national values ​​of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in our relations with Turkey and, together with our European partners, to ensure that President Erdogan understands that any attempt to dissolve the HDP or to detain or ban its functions, its members will have serious negative consequences for Turkey.

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Mr. President:

We write with deep concern regarding the decision of the Turkish Constitutional Court in June 2021 to accept an indictment against the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), with the aim of dissolving the country’s third political party. The HDP trial on politically motivated charges marks the culmination of President Erdogan’s efforts to strip Turkey’s Kurdish people of their rights, undermine political pluralism in the country, and tighten their grip on power through undemocratic means. We welcome the State Department statement of March 2021 highlighting the threats that the dissolution of the HDP would pose to democracy and emancipation in Turkey. We urge you to strongly condemn President Erdogan’s growing efforts to dissolve the country’s largest pro-Kurdish political party and to work with our European partners to prevent a further democratic setback in Turkey.

In recent years, President Erdogan has waged a systematic campaign to restrict the rights of the HDP. Since 2015, the Turkish government has detained more than 5,000 lawmakers, leaders and members of the HDP party, virtually all on baseless charges and attracting international condemnation. In the high-profile case of Selahattin Demirta ?, the former HDP leader imprisoned since November 2016, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled, in 2018 and 2020, that Turkey had violated its rights in under the European Convention. on human rights and ordered his immediate release. Despite the legally binding nature of these decisions, Demirta? remains in prison, prompting the Council of Europe on September 17, 2021 to call on Turkey to release him immediately.

In another brazen effort to consolidate his power through undemocratic means, President Erdogan removed from office, and in many cases detained, dozens of democratically elected HDP mayors. According to the US State Department’s National Human Rights Reports 2020, in August 2019 the Turkish government replaced most of the HDP mayors elected in the March 2019 local elections with centrally appointed “administrators” . Such measures upset the will of millions of voters and undermine Turkey’s multi-party system.

Having failed to defeat Turkey’s largest pro-Kurdish party at the polls, President Erdogan is now trying to dissolve the HDP and ban hundreds of its members from performing their duties through the judiciary. This represents a clear effort to bring the political opposition to its knees ahead of Turkey’s next general election scheduled for 2023 and, if successful, would undo the fairness and credibility of those elections and cause lasting damage to the country’s political pluralism. We urge you to uphold our national values ​​of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in our relations with Turkey and, together with our European partners, to ensure that President Erdogan understands that any attempt to dissolve the HDP or to detain or ban its members will have serious negative consequences for Turkey.

We thank you for your leadership and look forward to working with you on this pressing issue.

Truly,



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