Interview with Hüseyin Aygün The Political Dynamics of Turkey: The Legacy of the Past and the Increasing Current Challenges – Part I
Interview with Hüseyin Aygün:
The Political Dynamics of Turkey: The Legacy of the Past and the Increasing Current Challenges
Political Dynamics of CHP (Republican People’s Party), the Backstage of Peace Process, and Experienced Societal Fractures
As Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey), we conducted a long interview with lawyer and jurist Hüseyin Aygün who is a deputy elected from Tunceli, in his own words Dersim deputy of Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party) (CHP). Hüseyin Aygün has been one of the most hardworking deputies of the CHP since 2011 when he was elected to Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi (Grand National Assembly of Turkey) (TBMM). On one hand, Aygün, as a deputy, has tried to be the voice of people in the region from which he is elected. He also attempted to be the spokesman of their rights, their pain and their demands. On the other hand, he has supported any oppressed and aggrieved people, groups, and classes all over Turkey and he has become a part in their struggle. He has been on the side of the identities that were oppressed and that wish to express the injustices that they have faced, –primarily the Alevis and Kurds who compose the majority of his constituency.
Regardless of the any political party, including his own party, organization or group that his discourse bothers, he has continued to defend bravely the rights of people he believes in. He fought to unveil the perpetrator of countless deaths due to torture and unsolved murders such as murders of Ayten Öztürk and Mehmet Ceren, and the losses of Mirik in the dark history of Turkish politics. He tried to uncover all dark murders, tortures and discriminations from Dersim massacre to military coups, from the hidden operations led by the state and various deep organisations to recent persecutions of the state. He opposed to the cross-border operation in 2011 and stood for the peace. He supported legal fights for rights on behalf of each part of the population from arrested students to the aggrieved citizens after Van earthquake; from the deaths of Uludere massacre to the children who experienced torture and rape in Pozantı Prison; from the aggrieved people due to recent political cases such as Ergenekon, Balyoz, Askeri Casusluk (Military Espionage) and Odatv; to the resistance for the sake of environmental causes as well as workers’ rights. He was in the frontline for the ongoing cases of young people who were killed and injured during the Gezi protests in 2013.
Moreover, Hüseyin Aygün is the writer of important books such as Dersim 1938 ve Zorlu İskan (Dersim 1938 and the Forced Resettlement); 0.0.1938 Resmiyet ve Hakikat (0.0.1938 Formality and Reality); Dersim 1938 ve Hacı Hıdır Ataç’ın Defteri (Dersim 1938 and the Notebook of Hacı Hıdır Ataç); Fişlemenin Kısa Tarihi (The Brief History of Tagging) and his book in Zazaki language Eve tarixe ho teri Amaene.
In the first part of our interview with Hüseyin Aygün, we have talked about the process of him being referred to disciplinary committee by the CHP, the politics of the CHP, claims about the CHP shifting to the right and Beykoz mansions, claims about the relations between the CHP and cemaat –the community– referring to the Gülen movement. Furthermore, we have talked about him being kidnapped by Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) (PKK), his view on Halkların Demokratik Partisi (People’s Democratic Party) (HDP), the ‘Kurdish-Turkish peace process,’ roles of Öcalan, Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı (National Intelligence Organization) (MİT) and Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi (Peace and Democracy Party) (BDP) during this process, how Alevis are excluded from the process, Gülen movement and his opinion on recent operations against the cemaat and the future of both THE CHPand himself. We are presenting our readers the synopsis and uncensored full text of the interview.
Synopsis of the Interview
“I was referred to party’s disciplinary committee because of my critiques against some Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party) (CHP)-run municipalities, contrary to the claims of the party, about the topics –such as reconstruction processes, relations with companies in major auctions, injustices against workers, concessions granted to certain powers in the elections and other related important issues.”
“In fact, the majority of Party Assembly (PM) members were against to discipline me. However, the leader himself led my disciplinary referral by insisting and using his power.”
“I criticized the candidacy of Mustafa Sarıgül to become İstanbul Metropolitan Mayor. There was no warning from the party about this issue, but I had a letter from Mr. Sarıgül.”
“The removal of republican values within party, the claims about the relations of the CHP with cemaat (the community –referring to the Gülen movement), the given priorities to Islamic based cadres and their display all the time were bothering me and the other deputies like me.”
“The right-wing, neoliberal and capital biased attitude that even helps to normalize the decision-making in Beykoz Konakları (Beykoz Mansions) has reached to the point that cannot bear me. If it is a left-wing party, the decisions should not be made in Beykoz Konakları.”
“The mayor of Ankara Metropolitan Area Melih Gökçek has built up his life and political line on defamation and black propaganda.”
“The order to Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) (PKK) to kidnap me was given directly from Kandil. My presence in the CHP and the expression of Dersim people and their historical sufferings in that party bothered them. They intended to give me a lesson, to silence and frighten me. However, due to increasing support to me in public they stepped back and freed me. Their intention was uncompleted and they could not succeed.”
“The voice of the Alevis who speak Kurdish is disregarded in Peace Process. The negotiations that held between Kurds, the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) (PKK) and İmralı and Erdoğan via Hakan Fidan seems to be for Sunni and Shafi’i Kurds.”
“Öcalan and Erdoğan decided that the solution should be under the flag of political Islam. Öcalan’s manifesto which was read in Newroz celebrations was written by him, but its last version was given by Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı (National Intelligence Organization) (MİT). That announcement was approved by Tayyip Erdoğan.”
“From Yazidis to Armenians, everyone was spoken in Öcalan’s Newroz announcement. In fact, there were even disparaging remarks about them. However, the name of Alevi people –that consists of 15 million– was not included at all. They ignored the Alevis.”
“I find Halkların Demokratik Partisi (People’s Democratic Party) (HDP) problematic because of its link to Öcalan and because everything is based on the negotiations between İmralı and Hakan Fidan for a long time. I believe, the marking of Öcalan is the principal handicap of the HDP. Öcalan as one-man brings no benefit to the Kurds.”
“Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi (Peace and Democracy Party) (BDP) attempted to exclude Gezi movement and to consider it as a coup. However, particularly the Kurdish youth who grew up in the west joined the protests. They did listen neither Öcalan, nor the BDP. They were fighting in Gezi by having the hardest and the most honourable fight.”
“After ISIS attacks to Kobane, Kandil’s trust relationship was broken with Erdoğan-Davutoğlu. They say that the negotiations are illusionary and that Erdoğan tricks them. There is a process that neither Kandil nor HDP deputies believe in anymore. However, there is one who wants to keep it as it goes and actually makes others accept it somehow. This is really strange.”
“A deputy of the HDP said that he wished that Hakan Fidan became the president so that they could have negotiations with the president instead of the MİT. This is incredible. The history of the MİT is full of darkness. It has not faced its faults such as its conspiracies, its role in Maraş massacre, more recently in Reyhanlı bombings. It is unbelievable to deny Turkish history and the historical realities that everyone knows for the sake of negotiations; it is not worth for it.”
“I have never heard that the Gülen Community -cemaat- has been established within the CHP. I do not think that it has done or can take over CHP; I think that there is no such possibility, and they do not have such power. Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi’s (Justice and Development Party) (AKP) operations against cemaat transformed to a witch hunt. The outlawed operations cannot be acceptable. Hence, the CHP mentions about it.”
“Personally I think that cemaat is as guilty as the AKP for the crimes that have been committed within last 10 years. I think that particularly the cadres within the judicial system and the police forces should be tried. The ones who were arrested due to Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) were actually arrested because of the plans of cemaat. They should be judged. However, it should not be AKP’s judgement; they only want to have revenge.”
“The CHP cares too much about the corruption. It has constantly been talking about the corruption since 17-25 December, for 14 months now. The CHP should change its discourse. It has to move beyond the sole critique of the government.”
“I do not know what kind of society and social democracy the CHP imagines. For instance, the AKP wants to change all schools to İmam Hatip schools. The CHP shows no opposition to it, it just watches. People are getting organized and resisting against İmam Hatip schools district by district, but I do not know where the CHP stands in this debate.”
“The CHP does not even make opposition as it does not have an aim. It just talks about the corruption. It is important to talk about political Islam, about the violence of Iraq Syria Islamic State (ISIS) and about religious education. They put religion in the calendar under the title of education of values. They will impose the fear of religion to a 4-year-old child. A generation will be destroyed by this education system. What does the CHP say about it? I do not hear anything.”
“I was very optimistic at the beginning, I was thinking that the CHP would approach to left and be renewed. However, I saw that it moved towards right-wing. I do not have enough power to stop this, and I already was referred to discipline. It might put some sort of leverage. If I am condemned, I will be banned politically. Hence, if I get condemnation, I will be discharged politically.”
Full Text of the Interview
Mr. Aygün, thank you very much for accepting to interview with us. You are known as one of the most hardworking deputies of Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (CHP-Republican People’s Party). I would like to start with your referral to Yüksek Disiplin Kurulu (High Disciplinary Committee) in the CHP. How did this process start? Why were you referred to High Disciplinary Committee?
They notified me 15 days ago. On 13th January, I was present for my defence at the place that they required. In a nutshell, by being contrary to the claims of the party, I was referred to Disciplinary Committee on 23 December 2014 because of my critiques against some municipalities run by the main opposition party (CHP) about the topics such as reconstruction processes, relations with companies in major auctions, injustices against workers, concessions granted to certain powers in the elections and other related important issues. Within 20 days, I had my defence at Disciplinary Committee on 13 January.
Were the municipalities and processes that you criticized particularly Sarıyer, Şişli and Beşiktaş?
Yes, particularly Sarıyer, Şişli and Beşiktaş. Because, a group of subcontracted workers in Beşiktaş who took action to unionize was attacked with stones and sticks by some civil forces that were allegedly related to the municipality, the place that they were striking was raided. Some workers were injured, it was signified intensely that it was the mayor who forced those civil groups to attack the workers. The mayor did not accept that. Subsequently, the right to unionize and other demands of workers including the increase in workers’ salaries were accepted. Workers won their rights by resisting against a social democrat municipality.
What were your statements that really bothered the CHP Headquarters?
I actually made an evaluation summarizing everything, emphasizing the gloomy nature of the existing situation in the way of future elections and recommending the revision of the relations of the CHP with large capital owners. I think it offended the authority and they activated the discipline mechanism of the party from the top. There were other attempts against me before the Party Assembly (PM) took action. My critiques were always source of inconvenience. In fact, majority of PM members were against to discipline me. However, the party leader himself led my disciplinary referral by insisting and using his own power. Surprisingly, there were 13 negative votes against my referral to discipline, that was a high objection despite the leader’s insistence. However, they did not care about those objections much.
“Despite the objections of PM, I was referred to discipline committee as a result of the insistence and force of the party leader”
Why is it surprising that there were 13 negative votes?
Because people taking part in organs such as PM are generally the ones who want to become deputies and they follow the instructions of the leader. In that sense, it is really valuable to have 13 rejections, and I am surprised with it. Normally, the decision should have been made on 13 January, the day I had my defence. However, another interesting thing happened. They did not announce the decision and said that they were investigating the case. This is also not a regular thing for the CHP.
You tried to defend the workers against a CHP-run municipality in Beşiktaş. But, what about Sarıyer, what happened there?
Sure, my critiques about Beşiktaş were to defend the workers. In Sarıyer, there was a billion dollar project given to a big company that would destroy the forests called Kuzey Ormanları (North Forests). The name of the project is Zekeriyaköy Villaları (Zekeriyaköy Villas). It’s been said that the project is worth around 2-3 billion dollars. I criticised the authorization of this rent-seeking project that would destroy the green.
When we talk about Şişli, Sarıyer, it reminds Mustafa Sarıgül who was the mayor in Şişli for many years and İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality presidential candidate in 2014 local elections. You also critiqued that Sarıgül was nominated as a candidate?
Yes, I made severe critiques.
Do you think that the critiques that you made back then might increase a coalition against you in the CHP? Did you receive a warning those days?
No, there was no warning from the party. I only had a letter from Sarıgül. It was a private letter, thus I cannot explain its content. It might not be ethical, he expressed his own thoughts and then I replied him by expressing mine. In a nutshell, I made a critique not being offensive and not being against to his candidacy but saying that he needed to have a philosophy of life. I just expressed my opinions to him by stating that he needed to act with regard to a specific philosophy about the world regardless of him being the mayor.
“The right-wing, neoliberal, capital biased attitude that even helps to normalize the decision-making in Beykoz Konakları (Beykoz Mansions) has reached to the point that cannot bear me”
I want to return to your statement about Mr. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu insisting on your referral to discipline. Both of you are from the same city. It created enthusiasm that the CHP gained both –the popular expression of ‘tulum çıkarmak’ in Turkish– of the 2 seats reserved to Tunceli in general election in 2011, and it also heartened the party leader who is from Tunceli. Your work in the region has contributed fairly to this achievement. Hence, we were thinking that you were close with Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu whom you have much in common?
No, no, this is not true.
Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu makes critiques in public particularly about the authoritarian tendency and anti-democratic practices of the government and emphasizes the importance of democracy. It is really extraordinary that he insisted on your referral to discipline because of your explanations. Do you think that he finds necessary to have these new attitudes as a result of his explanations that he often repeated that ‘the people want to see me powerful and they want me to have voice’ since the CHP Committee on September 2014? We witness that there are other deputies in the party that received warnings or were disciplined.
I think that my critiques were the last straw that broke the camel’s back and he wanted me to be disciplined, because I had been criticizing some issues for a long time. Some issues such as the removal of republican line within party, the claims about the relations of the CHP with cemaat (the community –referring to the Gülen movement), the given priorities to Islamic based cadres were bothering me and the other deputies like me. My difference was to critique them and to explain clearly without any concern and without thinking of my future possibility of being elected as a deputy. The tolerance and the patience of the party leader that he showed so far to my explanations ended.
Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu gave hope to the people and created a new movement when he took the lead of the CHP in 2010. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was with a hard hat and was saying that he was going to end the subcontract work and the system of exploitation in 2010. Does he now think different than you as you support the fight of subcontracted workers? Is the CHP now friendlier with the large cap? Why do you think that your critiques offended the authority?
It is visible that something has changed. I guess the right, neoliberal and capital biased attitude that even helps to normalize the decision-making in Beykoz Konakları (Beykoz Mansions) project has reached to the point that cannot bear me. The traditional attitudes towards me were like this: He belongs to left-wing in this party and he has right to critique to some degree. The region that he is representing is a very problematic one and it has historically faced many oppressions. Hence, it is acceptable to give him a certain level of freedom of expression. This was the mentality within the party. Yet, with each of my critique, this mentality has come to an end. I critiqued clearly the right-wing tendency in the party, for instance, when Bekaroğlu –Mehmet Bekaroğlu– became the deputy leader while forcing the women’s quota. I said that ‘they could not discipline us, that they could not force the leftists, seculars and Alevis to do this.’ I guess that all these explanations were noted with highlights.
The expression of ‘Beykoz Konakları’ (Beykoz Mansions) has become a myth. It has been said that they manipulate the CHP, but it is not clarified exactly who and what they are. If it is possible, could you please explain what Beykoz Mansions refer to?
Yes, sure. Beykoz Konakları refers to the big cap, the companies and the media biased to big capital, old and new politicians and bureaucrats who hold million dollar power in hand.
Are these politicians the ones who played a role in right-wing political parties in the 1990s such as Anavatan Partisi (Motherland Party) (ANAP) and the right-wing politicians in the parties such as Demokratik Sol Parti (Democratic Left Party) (DSP)?
Sure, some of these people are now deputies of the CHP. There are some deputies who do not hide that they are close to cemaat, they design the political area from time to time. They plan the routes. Indeed, Beykoz Konakları is a similar platform. If it is a left-wing party, they should not be the decision-making body of the party, but if it is not a left-wing party, it should be honestly said that the decisions are made in Beykoz Konakları. This is the responsibility of a party to the people.
I understand. We saw you many times working and striving for people that elected you as a deputy. We witnessed that you stand in the front side for demanding the rights in workers’ demonstrations and protests with resisting groups, students and youth. We should confess that Turkey has not seen a deputy profile as you demonstrate for a long time now. Deputies pretend mostly as a deputy leader. There are many reasons for it. Indeed, when we take into account your attitude and activities as a deputy; we see that you differ from the CHP traditions and its policies from time to time. What were the main reasons that push you to become a deputy of the CHP?
The actual reason that push me, the same reason for many other socialists to become closer to CHP, appeared with objective developments. In my thinking, many socialist structures on the left side of the CHP such as Devrimci Yol (Revolutionary Path), Türkiye Komünist Partisi (Communist Party of Turkey) (TKP), illegal left-wing, socialist left organised in underground including Devrimci Halk Kurtuluş Partisi/Cephesi (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front) (DHKP-C) have transformed after socialism collapsed. After changes and transformations in the Soviet Union, the ones in socialist left lost their chance to express themselves to the society and to the world, and their claims lost power. Accordingly, the majority of them started to affiliate and express themselves within the CHP. The convergence of Kurdish origin former socialists to Halkların Demokratik Partisi (People’s Democratic Party) (HDP) must be an outcome of the same process. It was a great opportunity for the CHP, because there were many experiences acquired in the 1970s. As a consequence of the weakening of socialist left, I found myself in the CHP because of Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi’s (Justice and Development Party) (AKP) attitude to take the control of the whole society, to create a monotype society and to maintain horribly this attitude by referring to religion.
“I found myself in the CHP because of AKP’s attitude to take the control of the whole society, to create a monotype society and to maintain horribly this attitude by referring to religion”
Within last 30 years, particularly the discourses of the AKP under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan imposed the idea of the CHP associated to military coups, authoritarian state, single-party government and a party that has no qualification other than being ‘extreme secularism’. It was really efficient and the CHP had rough times to destroy this perception. Was there any other CHP? Was there any period of the CHP being anti-imperialist, worker centred and populist or giving signs of being close to socialist left? Did you try to remind us of this? Did you hope to find that the CHP again?
By meaning an average leftist, social democrat, Kemalist and progressive majority and confederation, the period of Sosyal Demokrat Halkçı Parti (Social Democratic Populist Party) (SHP) was a really populist one and everyone accepts this. The movement that Erdal İnönü started at the end of the 1980s was populist, supporter of workers and trade unions. In fact, what we were trying to do in the CHP was to seek to revive the spirit of SHP as an opposition party. I did not do, in fact I have recently taken part of it. Hence, I cannot make such big claims. However, some CHP cadres achieved this once and they can be an opposition as the SHP again. My personal story is to find myself closer to a social democrat party if the CHP can do so, and I fight for it.
The Mayor of Ankara Metropolitan Area Melih Gökçek claimed that you will join to the HDP. Is there any possibility that you will affiliate with the HDP?
No, there is not. There has never been such demand from HDP either. Considering HDP’s Dersim provincial organization and the organizational structure of Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) (PKK) in Dersim, I do not need to explain why our relations are poor. They decided to kidnap me and to give me a lesson in summer of 2012. However, they stepped back and released me due to extreme national and international reaction. Thus, there is no such demand to me from their side. However, I have friendly relations with their deputies in parliament; I am one of the deputies in the CHP who is responsive to Kurdish issue. I guess, this is why there are such public suppositions. The mayor that you mentioned has built up his whole life and his political line on black propaganda. Thus, his words are insignificant.
“The order to PKK to kidnap me was given directly from Kandil. It was an outcome of fight for authority in Dersim. They wanted to give me a lesson but they could not”
There is lack of information in society and as a result there is information pollution that politicians manipulate. Depending on your sharp critiques, some people see you close to PKK’s line. On the other hand, there are some other claims that the PKK is against to you and that HDP’s political line is far from you. Could you please make an explanation about these issues starting from your kidnap by the PKK?
Indeed you asked a very important question. I do not think that the PKK is specifically against me. The main issue for the PKK was a fight for authority. I wrote books about Dersim, for instance I wrote a book in my mother tongue (Zazaki language). I am a person who had found several documents and conducted research about 1938 Dersim massacre while I was working as a lawyer –that is long before these discussions about the massacre started. My presence in the CHP and the expression of Dersim people and of their historical sorrow in that party were perceived as an expression at the highest level. In the fight for authority in Dersim, they decided that it could be a convenient way to give me a lesson, to silence and to intimidate me. This is how they thought in Kandil. With an order from there, I was kidnapped as a deputy who has no bodyguard, no weapon and who goes to the highest point of Munzur. It was very easy to kidnap me. I did not have any weapon, any guard, it was so normal they did not need to kidnap me with kalashnikovs. Subsequently, they stepped back very fast due to great support of public for me, –people’s explanations, comments and reactions that support my thoughts and practices. The action that was planned directly by Kandil was suddenly tried to be shown as an officiousness of 2 young people and they had to calm the public down. Hence, my kidnap was actually designed in official level and was a part of front tactics in fight for authority in Dersim. The aim was to give me a lesson, but it mired down and they failed.
There is a so-called ‘resolution process’ led by governing the AKP in Turkey. According to my personal observations, Abdullah Öcalan and Kandil want to cooperate with the Turkish socialists for the resolution process. They want Turkish Socialists to be involved in the process. Could it be that they do not want Alevi socialists to get involved?
I cannot express myself only with my Alevi identity. I can express myself with leftist and socialist philosophy of life. Alevism is a religious view that I can never renounce, and a culture that I am proud to be a part of. In order to be honest to myself, I must say that I do not primarily identify myself as an Alevi politician. Going back to the resolution process, I do not think Alevis are considered in the negotiations. I can state that Alevis, who comprise %10 of the Kurdish society, –even %15 according to other estimates–; Kurdish-speaking Alevis are certainly not taken into consideration. In a sense the negotiations that the Kurds, the PKK, and İmralı carry on with Erdoğan through Hakan Fidan’s mediation, seem as if these are the negotiations of Sunni and Shafi’i Kurds. Therefore, Alevis, who speak Kurdish and Zazaki –and who are from Adıyaman, Dersim, Malatya, Erzincan, Varto, Hinis–, and so on, are never a part of the negotiations. Thus, it is impossible for me to be involved in the process as an Alevi, because of the program and agenda followed by the people leading the negotiations. I assume it is the parties’ responsibility to ensure this involvement. This is what is required if this negotiation is intended to be correspondent with the diversity of the Kurdish community.
“The Alevis who speak Kurdish are ignored in the Resolution Process. In a sense the negotiations that the Kurds, the PKK and İmralı carry on with Erdoğan through Hakan Fidan’s mediation, seem as if these are the negotiations of Sunni and Shafi’i Kurds”
Why do you think Alevis speaking Kurdish and Zaza are not invited to the negotiation process?
Because Erdoğan and Öcalan decided to negotiate under the flag of political Islam. Öcalan’s manifest that was read at Newroz celebrations was approved by Erdoğan. Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı (National Intelligence Organisation) (MİT) also reviewed and edited the manifest –everybody knows this as a fact. Öcalan wrote the manifest and MİT prepared its finalised version.
You mean that the AKP and İmralı agreed upon a policy that centralises Sunni Islam and leads the resolution process at this guideline?
The AKP mainly aims to bring Turks and Kurds together under the dome of a mosque. İmralı and Kandil axes agreed upon this agenda as well. Their view is: Kurds are our brothers because we all are Muslims. As such, Davutoğlu –Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu– carried this view even to Europe. He said, ‘after the Paris attacks that Islam is an inextricable piece of Europe, no one can take Islam out of Europe.’ Leaving the issue of Turks and Kurds aside, they want to spread Islamic solidarity to the world. However, after Iraq Syria Islamic State’s (ISIS) attacks at Kobane, Kandil lost trust in both Erdoğan and Davutoğlu. We will all see what will happen next.
You have criticised Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi (Peace and Democracy Party) (BDP) on emphasizing ‘Kurds’ only, you even criticized Dersim Municipality of ‘Acting not as the Municipality of Alevi public, but as the Municipality of Sunni and Shafi’i people of Hakkari.’
Yes, I have stated all of these after the pronouncement at Newroz, because in the pronouncement Yazidis and Armenians were mentioned and interestingly, they were being criticised with the usage of some derogatory words. Their lobbies and politics in Turkey were mentioned. That is why I reacted; more than 15 million Alevis were not mentioned there, despite all the others. My reactions became very influential in public opinion as well, as everybody started asking the same questions. Eventually, Öcalan had to explain this via Selahattin Demirtaş. It was 15 days later, when he started saying that ‘his campaign started with Alevis, there were Alevis by his side, and he loves Alevis, and so on.’
“HDP’s fundamental handicap is its Öcalan brand. Öcalan’s one-man policy will not bring positive outcome for the Kurds”
In fact, there was serious dissolution among the socialist and revolutionist left after the end of the Cold War, fall of Soviet Empire and the spread of postmodern paradigms and neoliberalism. A view called as ‘left-wing liberalism’ started to be popular. ‘Former leftists, socialists’ who define themselves as ‘leftist liberal’ or ‘independent leftist’ had an impact on the world of literature and thought. Within this period, identity politics became dominant in the society as well. Therefore, people, parties and communities who define themselves as leftist yet have a wide range of different priorities and different views of the struggle starts to confuse the new generation who does not know much about the political philosophical history, and the history of the social movements. Labelling everyone as ‘communist, anarchist, or socialist’ is not as popular as it used to be. I want to clarify this situation by exemplifying it through your stance. What are your opposing views with the HDP, a party that is claimed to be at the left-wing as well?
First of all, it is clear that Öcalan leads the HDP. If we will consider the KCK and the HDP at the same guideline, it is clear as Kemal Burkay stated that Koma Civakên Kurdistan (Group of Communities in Kurdistan) (KCK) is founded by the MİT itself. The former Minister of Interior Affairs, İdris Naim Şahin, stated that ‘there are 100 MİT members in the KCK.’ I find the HDP problematic due to the reason that all of its resolutions are found through Hakan Fidan and Öcalan himself. The image of Öcalan is not approved by Turkish society. His image might be good in Diyarbakir or in Kandil, but it is not good in Ankara or Istanbul. Even an important part of Kurdish community does not approve Öcalan. Öcalan told deputies who went to visit him at the island of İmralı that ‘even if he is released he will not leave jail, since he has too many enemies outside.’ However, besides this negative image, HDP’s emphasis on peace among societies, on sister cultures, and on labour is very positive. I find this approach of HDP very similar to that of the ‘New CHP,’ which we believed and trusted back in 2011. I believe that the biggest handicap of the HDP is the image of Öcalan. If Öcalan has an impact on the election of a mayor at a small town, as we experienced, then problems would occur. None of the leaders should have such power, neither Kılıçdaroğlu nor Erdoğan. However according to the legacy of the PKK, clause 10, and the KCK treaty clause 11, Öcalan is recognized as the rigidly, eternal and sacred leader. The main problem of Turkey right now is the ‘one-man-rule’. There is only one man at the core of parliament as well. There also stand the projects to enable presidential regime, too. The same situation is experienced for the Kurdish movement and is also problematic from that point of view. Kurds, however, are behind Turks with regards to democratisation. Turks have experienced the Westernisation process for two centuries. It began with the Ottomans in 1839. In this respect, I can certainly say that Öcalan’s one-man approach will not be of any use for even Kurds.
From this perspective, are there substantial differences between the Kurds of Central and Western Anatolia and the Kurds of the East?
Yes, particularly the Kurds who were born and raised in the West are more secular and open-minded. Telling from my own experience in Gezi, Kurdish youth, who were born and raised in Ankara, were exposed to gas bombs in many places in Ankara. However, the BDP opposed and rejected Gezi and considered it as a ‘coup.’ During the course of the Gezi movement, Öcalan said ‘do not let Ergenekon-supporters get any opportunities.’ However, I saw many Kurds participating in Gezi movement. They did follow neither Öcalan nor BDP during the protests. The ones in the West, at least educated Kurds, are not involved in that hegemony, at least the ideological hegemony. Kurdish youngsters that I came across with during the course of Gezi were from Ankara University and Orta Doğu Teknik Üniversitesi (Middle East Technical University) (ODTÜ). Their parents were from Diyarbakır, they were fighting in Gezi, in the most honoured way.
“Can someone, standing as a dictator on one side, be a democrat on the other side to solve the Kurdish issue? Members of the HDP could not answer this question yet”
BDP did not involve in Gezi; however, BDP youth was there, as well as the young members of the Kurdish community. The statement of Selahattin Demirtaş, saying ‘We have seen the coup during the Gezi protests,’ was very controversial and criticised. Anti-democratic practices of AK Party leadership and the murder of labourers or students in workplaces, schools and streets were social breaking points. Therefore, previously BDP’s, and now HDP’s hesitation to carry out strong opposition or to give sufficient support to people demanding rights for the sake of ‘resolution process’ has been heavily criticised. The HDP, which began its journey as Turkey’s party, now claims that it is a political party of proletarians and oppressed people. However, it faces the problem of trustworthiness. Is the ‘resolution process’ important than anything else, or is there something else going on that BDP/HDP politicians, which are expected to be very sensitive to human rights issues, know but we do not?
Baskın Oran was invited to a meeting after he left the ‘committee of wise men’. Erdoğan is still playing a game of his own with those of the ‘wise men.’ Baskın Oran who used to be a Kemalist, is from the liberal philosophical school. I attended his classes in Ankara University, Faculty of Political Science in 1980s, now I meet him frequently as a deputy. He once said that it is not moral to focus on the ‘resolution process’ while one part of the country is exposed to gas bombs and 14 year-old children are murdered. You cannot expect much in the East, while the West is suffering this brutality. I really appreciated this statement. The resolution process is definitely very important; Kurds have been living under oppression; they desperately want peace; you know what is happening in Cizre recently. Yesterday the sixth child was killed there. Again, what is going on behind the scenes is quite dark. However, can someone, who stands as a dictator on one side, be a democrat on the other side to solve the Kurdish issue? Members of the HDP could not answer this question yet. The HDP and the Kurdish politicians need to answer this question.
From time to time strong but individual reactions rise against the resolution process and the government’s sincerity. There are also harsh criticisms coming from Kandil. However, it seems that this process is led by Öcalan. Hence, the HDP, which is under Öcalan’s influence, cannot undertake strong and diverse opposition in order not to disturb the resolution process. On the other hand, Kurdish community is still in protest in the streets without the influence of the resolution process and are demonstrating strong opposition against many of the practices of the government. Do you agree with this? There is a war going on in the streets; people are dying every day and violence and blood never end. It is important to consider the politics and struggles of this. You follow these closely. What is your take on the protests on the streets?
Many people died in Izmir and Istanbul during the Kobane protests on 6 and 7 October. They were shot by rifles and guns, and precisely 50 people died of which whose name is unknown, and there is no public effort to investigate these. Minister of Home Affairs stated this itself. After the murder of 50 people, and after there was agreement among Kurds that Hür Dava Partisi (Free Cause Party) (HÜDA PAR) committed murders through state support, PKK leaders in Kandil made very accurate statements. They said: ‘Erdoğan has been stalling us from the first day and never been serious in solving the Kurdish issue; we are negotiating now, but we are also ready to fight with arms and have no expectations from Erdoğan and AKP in our struggle.’ There have been statements about the negotiation ‘being only a delusion,’ by many including Bayık, Karayılan and Bese Hozat. I understood that Erdoğan was not trusted from the words of PKK representatives; this is now confirmed by the HDP representatives in the parliament that I have a conversation with. They told me that they have recently begun understanding the AKP and they pay the utmost attention to protect the resolution process. I have never encountered a HDP representative who trusts the AKP, Erdoğan or Hakan Fidan. It is interesting that there are no deputies who defend the negotiations. It is also very strange that there is a process that is not believed or supported by Kandil or guerrillas of the HDP, but someone wants and forces this to be continued the way it is.
There is apparently a serious confusion here. People do not understand Selahattin Demirtaş, who on one hand says ‘We will not negotiate with a party who still has not paid for what happened in Uludere,’ but on the other hand who repeatedly sits on the table and supports the resolution process. This is criticised harshly. Again, on one hand there are the ones who mention conspiracy theories saying that is a project organised by the KCK, even the HDP and the MİT, and on the other hand, there are others who state that Kurds learnt how to negotiate and we should not only see the image.
One day, a BDP representative accidentally said that ‘he wished Hakan Fidan would become the prime minister so that they would negotiate with the prime minister rather than the MİT.’ This is unbelievable. It would be problematic anywhere in the world, for the head of the intelligence unit to become the head of state, because he or she is responsible for the security and is not a politician. For the sake of negotiations, they even suggested the head of the MİT to become the prime minister. I think this tells a lot. Additionally, the MİT is an organisation that has a dark history. It has not paid for its roles in conspiracies, the Maraş massacre and recent bombing of Reyhanlı. Yet, they still want to see the head of this organisation become the prime minister. It is not appropriate for anyone to reject Turkey’s contemporary history and the truth, just for the sake of negotiations.
“Gülenists are nowhere in control of the CHP. AKP started a witch-hunt against them. The CHP is not focusing on such criticisms because cemaat is under pressure”
There are claims that the CHP has an alliance with the Gülen movement, which the Gülenists are organized within CHP, not other parties, and that there are at least 20 Gülenist deputies in CHP, and 20-25 Gülenists will become deputy candidates. What is your opinion on this subject?
I did not hear any of these. I do not know if Gülenists are organized within the CHP; however, I do observe that the CHP, particularly at the times of election, tends to become very flexible to expand its supporters. I think the AKP is following an illegal act against the Gülen movement: thousands of police members, hundreds of prosecutors are exiled in their duty station, a lot of policemen are getting arrested due to offenses such as wiretapping. I do not think any deputy; any citizen who is respectful to the law can accept this treatment. This turned into a witch-hunt. The CHP, as an oppressed group, keeps its Gülen movement criticism aside since the movement is supressed as well. However, personally I believe that the Gülen movement is as responsible as the AKP is, of the political offenses committed. Therefore, rather than cooperating with the Gülen movement or any other religious organization, we need to enlighten the entire society and acquire votes according to our own principles.
“I think that particularly the cadres within the judicial system and the police forces should be tried. The ones who were arrested due to Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) were actually arrested because of the plans of cemaat. They should be judged. However, it should not be AKP’s judgement”
The AKP government adopts a rather strict attitude against the movement. Accusations of being a parallel structure, an enemy of the state, an enemy of the people, a Haşhaşi (Assassins) organization, never end. The claims of Gülenist movement taking over the CHP organization are heard more often. Do you think the so-called Gülen movement, at least a part of it, are implicated in crime, are organized strategically within the state, and are a rather dangerous structure?
First of all, I do not think the Gülen movement did or can take over the CHP organization. This is not a possibility, and the movement does not have such power for that. However, I think that particularly the cadres within the judicial system and the police forces should be tried. The ones who were arrested due to Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) were actually arrested because of the plans of cemaat. They should all be judged. Zekeriya Öz and others are deeply involved in crime. Even though what are happening against them are a clear oppression and an illegal act, the truth remains the same. Indeed, the movement should not be tried by the AKP jurisdiction, because if they do so, they will be vengeful, and it will not be a fair trial. Yet, the responsibility of a democratic jurisdiction is to go after the crimes committed by the Gülen movement, as well as by the AKP.
Another claim that a group called ‘New Dersimliler’ has emerged within the CHP and that this group has been organized very well especially at municipalities, and has been involved in certain corruption cases. In order to mask the corruption they are trying hard to be better organised within the party. It is also claimed that this group is behind your referral to the discipline committee. Do these claims have a ground?
I have never heard of such group. However, as a man who spent 40 years of his life in Dersim, I do know that there is a high competition to become a member of parliament within the CHP, within the Tunceli committee. There might be people who will be happy to see me out of politics. There might be Dersimliler who are excited to see me penalised by the discipline committee, who think they will be the next candidates to be deputies after me as the representative of Dersim. However, I do see all this as part of politics, and I do not really pay attention to all those people. I am tolerant towards them.
“We do not know what kind of society the CHP imagines. The CHP has to change its opposition way”
The CHP, as the main opposition party, is criticised for not going beyond criticising the government. What do you think of it?
True, true. The CHP is obsessed with corruption. Since 17-25 December 2013, for 14 months they have kept talking about corruption. A considerable part of Turkish public has accepted corruption and do not see it problematic. According to them, the government is corrupt but provides services efficiently. The CHP has to change its discourse. I give credit to this criticism on the CHP; it should not only talk about corruption.
What do you think the CHP has to say in this case? Sometimes they tend to make such long statements that it is hard to recall and thus cannot set the public’s agenda…
You have a point, they are never enough. Previously, they had declared 16 clauses. Recently they declared 72 clauses. Even I cannot remember all 72 of them. Politics do not work that way; Demirel used to say 3 things only and then would go eat at a restaurant, and that’s what people would remember. I think the CHP has to first decide what kind of society and what kind of social democracy it envisages. For example, I am not sure what CHP’s ideal society looks like.
Can you elaborate on that? What does your ideal society look like?
For example at a meeting, Kılıçdaroğlu told us ‘to go ask imams to support us and work with them, out of nowhere.’ This is a very interesting idea. None of the imams are the CHP supporters, they are against the parliamentary system and for them everything is clearly stated in the Quran. Surely you can ask imams for votes, but cooperating with them… The head of party told this during that meeting. In this sense, I do not fully understand what kind of society the CHP wants. AKP, for instance wants to change all schools to İmam Hatip schools. The CHP shows no opposition to it, it just watches. People are getting organized and resisting against İmam Hatip schools district by district, but I do not know where the CHP stands in this debate. But I know myself, that I do not want religious schools. Our society needs scientists, researchers, chemists, sportsman, ballerinas, philosophers –but not imams. But strangely, the CHP never states this. This is because the CHP does not have a grand mission; they cannot really offer a proposition. They just talk about corruption, thinking everyone in the society accepts that the government is corrupt. But what is your opinion about political Islam, about the ISIS violence, about the religious schools, religion is present even in kinder gardens through ‘moral education.’ Religious fears are imposed on children at the age of 4: saying not to do that because it is a sin; do that and you will go to heaven; do not do that or you will jinx it… Next generations are becoming increasingly blinded, and I have not heard anything from the CHP against this.
Finally, are there any differences between your expectations from the CHP four years ago and your experience in the CHP throughout these four years? What are your observations?
At first I was very optimistic, I was expecting a new and leftist CHP, but I have seen it moving towards right. This was a disappointment for me. Throughout these four years, the party didnot move towards the way what I dreamed for, but towards what I criticised of. Indeed, I have no power to change that, as I have already been sent to the discipline committee. This personal experience will be a part of the history of the party, as well as of mine.
Is it true that even if you get a condemnation you will not be able to run for the parliament?
Yes, you are banned from all political activities. Therefore, even if you get a condemnation, I will be probably politically eliminated.
Do you have other plans, if you do not become a candidate from the CHP? Like running as an independent candidate?
No, I do not have any other plans. Turkey has not made any progress in the Dersim issue, and I could not make a contribution even through the party. I made millions of people hear about the issue and become aware of it. Okay, this change is extremely important and valuable, yet the parliament could not take any decision. Therefore, how would you expect me to do something neither on my own, while I could not contribute to anything concrete, neither individually nor through my party?
-END OF PART I-
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Please cite this publication as follows:
Research Turkey (February, 2015), “Interview with Hüseyin Aygün The Political Dynamics of Turkey: The Legacy of the Past and the Increasing Current Challenges (Part I): Political Dynamics of CHP (Republican People’s Party), the Backstage of Peace Process, and Experienced Societal Fractures”, Vol. IV, Issue 2, pp.82-104, Centre for Policy Analysis and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey), London, ResearchTurkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=8044)