Selahattin Demirtaş

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Selahattin Demirtaş

Selahattin Demirtas cropped.jpg
Chairman of the Peoples' Democratic Party
In office
22 June 2014 11 February 2018
Servingwith Serpil Kemalbay (formerly Figen Yüksekdağ)
Preceded by Ertuğrul Kürkçü
Succeeded by Sezai Temelli
Leader of the Peace and Democracy Party
In office
1 February 2010 22 April 2014
Preceded by Mustafa Ayzit
Demir Çelik
Succeeded byParty abolished
See Democratic Regions Party
Member of the Grand National Assembly
In office
22 July 2007 7 July 2018
Constituency Diyarbakır (2007)
Hakkari (2011)
Personal details
Born (1973-04-10) 10 April 1973 (age 46)
Palu, Elazığ, Turkey
Political party Democratic Society Party
(Before 2008)
Peace and Democracy Party
Peoples' Democratic Party
Spouse(s)Başak Demirtaş
Relatives Nurettin Demirtaş (brother)
Alma mater Ankara University

Selahattin Demirtaş ( Loudspeaker.svg Turkish pronunciation  ; born 10 April 1973) is a Turkish politician of Zaza Kurdish descent, member of the parliament of Turkey since 2007. He was co-leader of the left-wing pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), serving alongside Figen Yüksekdağ from 2014 to 2018. Since November 2016 he has been detained by the Turkish state. Demirtaş was the presidential candidate of the HDP in the 2014 presidential election, coming in third place with 9.77% of the vote. The HDP executive board also fielded Demirtaş as their candidate for the 2018 presidential election. Running from prison, [1] he came in third with 8.40% of the vote.

The Zazas are a people in eastern Anatolia who natively speak the Zaza language. Their heartland, the Dersim region, consists of Tunceli, Bingöl provinces and parts of Elazığ, Erzincan and Diyarbakır provinces. The majority of Zazas consider themselves ethnic Kurds and they are often described as Zaza Kurds.

Grand National Assembly of Turkey parliament of Turkey

The Grand National Assembly of Turkey, usually referred to simply as the TBMM or Parliament, is the unicameral Turkish legislature. It is the sole body given the legislative prerogatives by the Turkish Constitution. It was founded in Ankara on 23 April 1920 in the midst of the National Campaign. The parliament was fundamental in the efforts of Mareşal Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, 1st President of the Republic of Turkey, and his colleagues to found a new state out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire.


Early life

Selahattin Demirtaş was born in a Zaza-speaking family [2] in Elazığ in 1973 where he completed both his primary and secondary education. He cites his experience at the funeral of politician Vedat Aydın as a political awakening:

Elazığ Municipality in Eastern Anatolia, Turkey

Elazığ is a city in Eastern Anatolia, Turkey, and the administrative center of Elazığ Province. It is located in the uppermost Euphrates valley. The plain on which the city extends has an altitude of 1067 metres. Elazığ resembles an inland peninsula surrounded by the natural Lake Hazar and reservoirs of Keban Dam, Karakaya Dam, Kıralkızı and Özlüce.

I became a different person. My life's course changed … although I didn't fully understand the reason behind the events, now I knew: we were Kurds, and since this wasn't an identity I would toss away, this was also my problem." [3]

Upon graduation from secondary school, he took the university entrance exam and started his college education in Dokuz Eylül University in the Department of Maritime Commerce and Management, where he would face political problems that would force him to leave school without finishing his degree. He returned to Diyarbakır and retook the university entrance exam, after which he enrolled at Ankara University Law Faculty. After college, Demirtaş worked as a freelance lawyer for a time before becoming a member of the executive committee of the Diyarbakır branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD). The IHD Chair at the time was Osman Baydemir who was elected as the mayor of Diyarbakır at the following local election, when Demirtaş replaced him as the chair of the Diyarbakır IHD. During his term as chair, the association focused heavily on the increasing unsolved political murders in Turkey.

Dokuz Eylül University university

Dokuz Eylül University (DEÜ) is a university in Turkey. It is located in İzmir, Turkey. It was founded in 1982 and is organized in 15 faculties. DEU is the first university which applied the problem-based learning method in Turkey, beginning in the School of Medicine in 1997.

The Ankara University, Law School is a faculty for law of the Ankara University in Turkey.

The Human Rights Association is an NGO for advancing Human rights in Turkey, founded in 1986 and headquartered in Ankara.

Political career

Demirtas meeting with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz in 2013 Selahattin Demirtas and Martin Schulz.jpg
Demirtaş meeting with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz in 2013
Selahattin Demirtas's election campaign logo Demirtas (2014 cumhurbaskanligi secim logosu).png
Selahattin Demirtaş's election campaign logo
Votes obtained by Demirtas throughout the 81 Provinces of Turkey in the 2014 presidential election 2014 Turkish Presidential Election-Demirtas.PNG
Votes obtained by Demirtaş throughout the 81 Provinces of Turkey in the 2014 presidential election
Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas, November 2015 Turkish general election HDP November election manifesto 3.jpg
Figen Yüksekdağ and Selahattin Demirtaş, November 2015 Turkish general election

Demirtaş started his political career as a member of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) in 2007 at which time he stood as one of the 'Thousand Hope Candidates' for the DTP and several other democratic organizations in Turkey. He was elected to the 23rd Parliament and became the Parliamentary Chief Officer for the party at the age of 34.

Democratic Society Party political party

The Democratic Society Party was a Kurdish nationalist political party in Turkey. The party considered itself social-democratic and had observer status in the Socialist International. It was considered to be the successor of the Democratic People's Party (DEHAP). On 11 December 2009, the Constitutional Court of Turkey banned the DTP, ruling that the party has become "focal point of activities against the indivisible unity of the state, the country and the nation". The ban has been widely criticized both by groups within Turkey and by several international organizations. The party was succeeded by the Peace and Democracy Party.

The Thousand Hope Candidates was an electoral alliance between four left-wing political parties in Turkey, formed in preparation for the 2007 general election. The alliance contested the election by fielding candidates from participating parties as independents in order to bypass the 10% election threshold needed to win seats in the Turkish Grand National Assembly. The alliance's candidates won a total of 1,334,518 votes and 22 seats in the election.

The DTP was closed down by a Supreme Court order in 2009 and the DTP MPs moved to the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). The BDP held its first congress in 2010 and elected Selahattin Demirtaş and Gültan Kışanak as its new co-chairs. Demirtaş contested the 2011 elections as part of the joint 'Labor, Democracy and Freedom' list endorsed by the BDP and 18 different democratic political organizations, this time from Hakkari. He was re-elected to the 24th parliament.

Demirtaş was the co-chair of BDP during the period when the peace process and negotiations kick-started in Turkey. In 2014 Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ were elected as the co-chairs of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) – a new initiative originating from a three-year-old coalition of the BDP and various different political parties and organization under the auspices of the Peoples' Democratic Congress (HDK) - for the 2014 presidential elections of Turkey, being one of three candidates and hoping to attract left-wing voters. [4] He came third with 9.77% of the vote.

Demirtaş was co-leader along with Figen Yüksekdağ during the June 2015 Turkish general election, the party's first campaign in a general election. The HDP came in fourth place with 13.12% of the vote and 80 out of 550 seats. Celebrating the victory, he stated: "From now on, the HDP is Turkey's party. HDP is Turkey, Turkey is HDP." [5] Demirtaş was officially announced as the candidate of the People's Democratic Party (HDP) on May 4, 2018 for the presidential election, after members of the party had hinted at his candidacy weeks in advance. [6] Party leader Pervin Buldan declared that Demirtaş, the jailed former co-chair of the HDP, would be leading a five-party "Kurdish alliance" into the general election. [7] He received 8.4% of the votes. [8]

On November 4, 2016, Demirtaş was arrested along with Figen Yüksekdağ and other HDP MPs, accused of spreading propaganda for militants fighting the Turkish state. [9] Demirtaş stated he is not a "manager, member, spokesperson, or sympathiser" of the armed PKK group. [10] But he allegedly gave instructions to the pro-PKK groups and provoked them during the 6–8 October events and resulted to the death of 53 Kurdish people. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed him for joining provocation and said that all Kurdish people are the citizens of Republic of Turkey, and no one can attempt to build a state for them. [11]

On January 18, 2017, Turkish prosecutors announced they were seeking a 142-year prison sentence for Demirtaş. [12]

On September 7, 2018 he got sentenced to 4 years and 8 months for a speech he had made at a Newroz celebration on the 20 March 2013. [13] on November 20, 2018 the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled Demirtaş should be released from preliminary detention. [14] On November 30, 2018 a court in Turkey ruled he shall remain detained despite the ECHR ruling to release him. According to the verdict, the ruling of the ECHR was not definitive and not binding. [15] The sentence he received the 7 September 2018 was upheld on December 4, 2018 by an appeal court. [16] On the 31 December 2018 the lawyers of Demirtaş appealed the sentence at the Constitutional Court. [13] According to the New York Times more than hundred charges were brought against him. [17]

Detention conditions

Since 4 November 2016 he is detained in the prison in the F-Type prison Edirne, [13] far away from Diyarbakir, where his family lives at. His wife visits him once a week. [18]

Personal life

Demirtaş is married to Başak Demirtaş and is the father of two girls, Delal and Dılda.[ citation needed ] Demirtaş has faced threats due to his political activity and on November 22, 2015 he survived an assassination attempt. [19]

In detention, he wrote a book titled Seher containing 12 fictional short stories. The Turkish edition has reportedly sold more than 200,000 copies. [20] The rights for the book in English was bought by Sarah Jessica Parker who published it under the title Dawn: Stories. [21] The English version was released on April 23, 2019, under Parker's imprint SJP for Hogarth.

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Başak Demirtaş is a Kurdish-Turkish teacher, author, and the wife of former HDP leader Selatattin Demirtaş, who she has been campaigning to get released from prison since 2016.


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  2. Orhan Türkdoğan, Doğu ve Güneydoğu: Sorunlar ve Çözüm Yolları, IQ KültürSanat Yayıncılık, 2009, ISBN   9789752552623, p. 16.
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