Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed former co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has said that the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was going to give up its armed struggle 10 days after the signing of the Dolmahbaçe Declaration on Feb. 28, 2015, but President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “did not allow this.”
“Let Turkish society be assured that it was only 10 days left after the Feb. 28, 2015 Dolmahbahçe Declaration that the PKK would give up its armed struggle against Turkey, but Erdoğan did not allow this,” Demirtaş said in an interview with Kısa Dalga news website on Oct. 17.
On Feb. 28, 2015, a ten-point peace plan (called the Dolmabahçe Declaration) was announced by the government and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), reportedly with backing by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), after a fragile ceasefire between PKK and the Turkish military since 2013.
Known by the Turkish public as “the resolution process,” adopted between 2013 and 2015, the negotiations between state officials and the PKK concentrated on the implementation of reforms ensuring democratization and recognition of the cultural and political rights of Kurds in the country.
However, everything began to unravel and the ceasefire collapsed after the general elections of June 2015, which left the Justice and Development Party (AKP) short of an absolute majority and brought the HDP into parliament.
Just one week after the June elections, Erdoğan raised the idea of holding new elections, saying parties in parliament were unable to form a coalition. The general elections repeated in November 2015 saw the AKP come to the power.
Asked what “went wrong” with regards resolution process, Demirtaş said the biggest mistake was that it was not run in a “transparent” way, its details were not sufficiently shared with the public, and parliament was left out of this process.
Demirtaş said that the “Committee of the Wise Persons” (Akil İnsanlar Heyeti) was planning to visit jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan on the İmralı Island for the last time in 2015 and take his final confirmation that “weapons will be deactivated completely.”
“The rest was going to be solved with democratic politics and through parliament, with the involvement of all of us. But, when Erdoğan saw that a permanent peace would serve neither him nor his party in a positive way, he ended the process. It is Erdoğan that prevented the ‘Committee of the Wise Persons’ from going to the İmralı [Island],” Demirtaş said.
At the time, the HDP held many talks with the then ministers for them to convince Erdoğan to allow the Committee of the Wise Persons to visit Öcalan. However, the ministers expressed Erdoğan’s “determination” to end the resolution process, Demirtaş said.
Erdoğan “believed that the conflict and blood would escalate nationalism and raise his support level,” Demirtaş said. “Unfortunately they are still not thinking differently today. With a new war in Syria, they are calculating how to increase their votes in the [upcoming] elections.”
“The people responsible for the resolution process should not have been individuals, but rather parliament. But in that period, we could not overcome this [obstacle]. We have tried a lot to include the CHP [Republican People’s Party] in the process and take the issue to parliament; however, we have always faced obstacles, barriers,” he said.
“For example, Erdoğan was demanding that everything be in his own control. Think about it, as HDP co-chairs, we could not meet with Erdoğan face-to-face even once during the resolution process,” Demirtaş said.
Demirtaş has been kept in prison for nearly five years despite a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decision saying he needs to be released.
In a ruling on Dec. 22, 2020, the ECHR said that Turkey’s justification for Demirtaş’s detention longer than four years on terrorism-related offenses was a pretext for limiting political debate.