Figen Yüksekdağ: The people of Turkey are under siege

Former HDP Co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ, held hostage in prison, spoke to Vanity Fair Italy.

Yüksekdağ spoke to Vanity Fair Italy through her lawyers and talked about how Turkish society has changed and the cultural/democratic regression affected all women.

“It’s not just the country that is changing, it is the whole of society,” said Yüksekdağ. “There have always been nationalist and religious strands in Turkey, but now they have come together in a dangerous alliance and found new legitimacy among the people. If nobody tries to stop them, this time they will have dire consequences.”

Yüksekdağ continued: “We witness the status of women worsen by the day in Turkey. The most fundamental rights have already been violated. The 2016 coup and the State of Emergency has affected the activities of hundreds of associations that helped victims of physical and psychological violence negatively. Kurdish women in particular have paid a great price. Right now we have 9 MPs, 35 mayors and thousands of members in prison.

The age for mandatory education was lowered, and the number of girls aged 13 and 14 who leave school are on the rise. Meanwhile, women’s participation in the economic sphere in the country has decreased.

June 24 poses a great test of an election for Turkey. And the HDP was excluded from two different alliances that propose conservative programs. According to Yüksekdağ, Turkey had never fully democratized and, while at least fundamental rights had been secured, they might be lost after the elections.

“It has been almost a century since the transformation from the Ottoman Empire to the modern republic, but Turkey doesn’t have experience in democratic administration r life except for a formal parliamentary model and short lived, fragmented attempts. Turkish society is under a severe nationalist, fundamentalist and regressive siege and this pressure has paralyzed the dynamics for societal renewal.” “The reason Erdoğan attacks so much is obvious, the outcome of the elections pose a risk for him. The elections ‘risk’ changing the country radically. The campaign is under censorship. HDP has no access to media, because almost all media is controlled by Ankara.

An artificial balance is created through policies of terrorizing and intimidation. It is clear how they turn the small and illegitimate majority they achieved into a balance of terror. Any majority they achieve in these elections will strengthen the rule of oppression and dictatorship under the guise of majoritarianism, and sever the last ties holding Erdoğan or the government constituents back. It is also clear that we have seen no hopeful or positive signs from their discourse or recent policies. The HDP represents the mission for legitimacy and righteousness. When we say the HDP, we speak of the struggle based on the people’s own strength that continues non-stop to achieve success in a program of radical democracy in Turkey and to rid the system of tendencies of coups, fascism or one-man dictatorships. We are taking on a great responsibility for history, and we are doing it on our own.

”What will you do when you first get out of prison?"

I want to say, “go on a vacation where the sky is limitless and nature is bountiful,” but under our circumstances that takes time to put into practice. Or it remains a dream that runs away as we approach it. If the difficult part happens and I do leave this place, I guess I will have to go right back to work because there will be so many things piling up and so many people waiting for me to handle them. Not to sound like I’m complaining, that would be a good and happy reunion for me. After the isolation in prison, one of the first things I will do is to go into crowds.”