After hdp arrests in turkey: bundestag takes on sponsorships

In a symbolic act, dozens of members of the Bundestag stand behind the Turkish HDP. It is a declaration of war against Erdogan.

Solidarity from Germany no longer comes only from the streets, but also from the Bundestag Photo: dpa

With a clear announcement, dozens of members of the German Bundestag on Friday stood behind the members of the opposition party HDP who are being persecuted in Turkey. Parliamentarians from the SPD, the Left Party and the Greens said in Berlin this morning that 60 German members of the Bundestag had taken on so-called sponsorships for HDP deputies in recent days. This is likely to cause new tensions in the relationship between Germany and Turkey.

The left-wing opposition party, which is predominantly Kurdish, had most recently suspended its work in the Turkish parliament after many MPs were arrested on the basis of alleged terror charges. "In Turkey, a whole group of parliamentarians is currently being persecuted simply because these parliamentarians are exercising their free mandate. We cannot simply stand by and watch this happen," said Michelle Muntefering (SPD), chairwoman of the German-Turkish parliamentary group in the Bundestag, when presenting the initiative in Berlin on Friday.

The "Parliamentarians Protect Parliamentarians" project, in which German MPs sponsor persecuted parliamentarians abroad, is not new. It was founded in 2013. Since then, a total of 75 members of parliament have taken on sponsorships for 110 people persecuted worldwide to date. On Friday, 37 new sponsorships were added. Never before has such a large group of parliamentarians been included in the program at once.

Members of parliament from the governing coalition of SPD and CDU/CSU as well as members of parliament from the opposition parliamentary groups of the Left Party and the Greens are involved. The aim of the program is for German parliamentarians to stand by their partners in Turkey if they are persecuted for exercising their mandate.

Relevant gesture

The initiative has what it takes to cause further diplomatic upsets between Germany and Turkey. Among other things, German MPs are said to be planning to visit HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas in prison in Turkey. Demirtas, like many other of his party members, is currently in Turkish custody on alleged terror charges.

The leaders of the parliamentary groups Thomas Oppermann (SPD), Sahra Wagenknecht (Left Party) and Anton Hofreiter (Greens) have taken on a joint "sponsorship" for him. That Turkey agrees to such a visit is likely to be futile – but what is relevant is the political gesture. Similar to the symbolic struggle for the right of German MPs to visit the Incirlik military base, this commitment is also likely to cause a stir.

Human rights politician Tom Koenigs (Greens) said, "We’re concerned with protection from political persecution due to the exercise of the mandate." Left-wing politician Sevim Dagdelen stated, "Many Turkish MPs have turned to us for help." SPD human rights politician Frank Schwabe said, "We will now look very closely at what is happening to our colleagues in Turkey. We want to visit them in the prisons and stand by them."

Steinmeier visit to Ankara

The MPs explicitly pointed out that the program was not only aimed at Turkish MPs of the HDP, but also at persecuted MPs of the social democratic, Kemalist-influenced, partly nationalist opposition party CHP. There have also been isolated requests for support from their ranks. At the same time, there are apparently still reservations within the CHP about joining the program. The party has been partly involved in preparing the ground for the persecution of the mostly Kurdish HDP deputies.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) may then find out how the program is received in the camp around Recep Tayyip Erdogan next week, when Steinmeier is scheduled to visit the Turkish capital Ankara. The German government has so far largely held back on vocal criticism or political sanctions, but is working behind the scenes on an aid program for persecuted people from Turkey.

The German Foreign Office is currently preparing an action program that will, among other things, provide support for Turkish-language online media. The program is intended to help persecuted journalists, scientists and cultural workers to continue their work – if necessary in Germany.

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