Jailed Kurdish leader Demirtaş receives international award for political courage

Germany-based Progressive Alliance gave its 2019 award for special political courage to former chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been in prison since November 2016.

The Progressive Alliance encompasses over 130 organisations, including the Party of European Socialists (PES) and the Group of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament.

Selahattin Demirtaş’s wife Başak Demirtaş received the award in his name, while HDP’s Deputy Chairman Hişyar Özsoy read a letter by the jailed politician in the ceremony.

“Selahattin may be thousands of kilometres away in a cell, but I feel his heart beating in excitement here in this hall with me,” Başak Demirtaş said, calling for the release of all those unjustly imprisoned.

“International cooperation and solidarity is vitally important in the face of the incredible insanities of the existing order that threatens human life in its entirety,” Demirtaş said in his letter read by Hişyar Özsoy. 

“The task for socialists, social democrats and all other progressive forces is to find creative solutions towards displacements, destruction of nature, massacres against women and children, all kinds of racism, gender discrimination, unemployment, poverty, merciless terrorism targeting civilians, and many other problems,” Demirtaş’s letter said. 

“A nice coincidence in Stockholm tonight. Progressive Alliance Awards 2019 was given to my friend and colleague Selahattin Demirtaş for his efforts for human rights and peace,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu said in a tweet on Friday.

Former European Parliament Rapporteur for Turkey Kati Piri said Demirtaş dedicated the award to all the peoples of Turkey.

Selahattin Demirtaş faces up to 142 years in prison over various charges related to alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and remains in prison despite a 2018 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights for his immediate release. 

A Turkish court in late October ruled for Demirtaş’s release in one of the cases he faced trial for, which involved insulting Turkey’s president, but a separate case prolonged his imprisonment.