WASHINGTON, D.C. — Turkey’s Kurdish minority is suffering from a “slow-motion genocide” at the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government as he pushes the country towards an “authoritarian system of governance,” the U.S. representative of a pro-Kurdish opposition party told a House panel.
During the same hearing hosted by the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats, the president of the U.S.-based Turkish Heritage Organization (THO), a pro-Turkey nonprofit, noted that Kurdish nationalist terror groups in had wreaked havoc in Turkey.
The witnesses testified soon after Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed leader of the pro-Kurdish opposition party known as the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), went on a brief hunger strike to protest prison conditions in Turkey.
Referring to the Kurdish minority, Mehmet Yuksel, the HDP representative in the United States, told House lawmakers:
My people in Turkey are going through a full-scale assault, which could be viewed as a form of genocide. The Turkish authorities have seen the Kurdish identity as the main enemy. Fighting this enemy, they have been conducting a slow-motion genocide. In fact, when we look at the eight stages of genocide published by Genocide Watch, we see that the Turkish government is indeed committing genocide against a minority.
He urged the American lawmakers to launch an investigation into “the crimes against humanity” committed against the Kurds as well as mediate peace talks between the Kurdish minority and Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).
Meanwhile, Ali Cinar, the THO president, told the American congressmen that Turkey has been facing an increase in deadly attacks by the U.S.-designated terror organization Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) and its splinter group Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK).
He noted that terrorist groups in Turkey, including the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), killed 270-plus people last year alone.
Escalation of the conflict between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Turkish state in 2016, ignited a wave of deadly terror attacks carried out by the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) in cities like Istanbul, Ankara, and Kayseri.
When looking at the “Kurdish issue” in Turkey today, it is important to disassociate Turkey’s Kurdish population from the PKK terrorist group. The only “issue” the government of Turkey has is with PKK terrorists and their affiliates, who attack and kill citizens of Turkey of all backgrounds.
Cinar claimed that some HDP party members have ties with the PKK terrorists.
“The recent detentions and arrests of a number of MPs from the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) must be understood in the context of the PKK conflict,” he told lawmakers.
Ahead of the fast-approaching (April 16) constitutional referendum on whether to grant the Turkish president additional powers, Erdogan has reportedly been trying to court the Kurdish minority vote.
“The constitutional amendments that are proposed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling AK Party projects an authoritarian system of governance, whereby absolute power is held by a single person,” testified the HDP representative Yuksel.
“On November 18, 2016, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, expressed grave concerns about the ‘draconian’ measures being used to erode independent opinion and expression in Turkey,” acknowledged Yuksel.
He urged the U.S. lawmakers to address those concerns.
Yuksel called on “the United States House of Representatives to take action to put further pressure on the Turkish authorities to respect democracy, rule of law and human rights, and ensure the freedom of speech with releasing thousands of political prisoners and journalists.”