In the latest episode of “The World Today,” Tariq Ali introduces a short film shot a few weeks ago, before Sunday’s hotly contested referendum that narrowly granted Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.
The movie, directed by Belgian filmmakers Chris Den Hond and Mireille Court, shows the pre-referendum oppressive conditions faced by the Kurdish opposition party and its supporters. “I was taken into custody and I stayed there for 15 days in very very harsh conditions,” recounted one activist.
After last July's aborted coup in Turkey, pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party's (HDP) Tugba Hezer was singled out by President Tayyip Erdogan. According to the film, Erdogan said if Hezer – the youngest member of the Turkish parliament – was to return to the country, she would immediately be arrested and jailed.
Although her party is the third-largest in Parliament and obtained over six million votes, Hezer is now exiled in Paris, while 13 other HDP legislators are currently in jail. “Until today, more than 3,000 senior officials, including our mayors, have been imprisoned,” she told the directors of the short movie.
She warned that the referendum, regardless of the result, would not be fair; accusing the justice system to take orders from the executive power.
Ergin Servet of Egitim Sen, a teachers' union in Kurdistan, pointed to an entire wall of pictures of alleged victims of the Turkish regime. “After the 15th July coup, the government suspended 11,000 teachers, after they started striking to denounce the war in cities of Kurdistan,” added Orhan Balyan, a union secretary of education. The decision, reportedly, placed their families in a terrible situation, as most of them were relying on the one salary to get by. The social leader added that the repression was still strong, with the investigations of 4,400 teachers still pending.
Following Sunday’s referendum, opposition parties and international observers have decried the vote as illegitimate. While the right-wing president's supporters took to the streets to celebrate the unofficial victory, his opponents stayed indoors – banging pots and pans in protest.
The official results of the referendum will be released in 12 days.