Turkey pro-Kurdish party reelects co-leaders amid southeast conflict

AFP , Sunday 24 Jan 2016

Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party on Sunday reelected its co-leaders Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas, as it seeks to maintain support amid the deadly conflict in the southeast.

The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) unanimously reelected Yuksekdag and Demirtas as co-leaders at a congress in Ankara, the party said in a statement. The party splits its top posts between a man and a woman to promote gender equality.

The charisma of Demirtas -- a top foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- helped the HDP win seats as a party for the first time in the Turkish parliament last year.

But with the government waging a relentless campaign against Kurdish militants in the Kurdish-dominated southeast of the country, the HDP faces a delicate task to build on its support.

Erdogan accuses the HDP of being the political front of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebels.

The HDP denies this and says it is seeking a just solution for Turkey's Kurdish minority within the framework of the modern state.

The HDP leaders gave their speeches against the backdrop of the Turkish flag, the slogan "common homeland, equal citizenship" and a picture of the PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan.

In his speech, Demirtas denounced the ongoing military crackdown in the southeast which the army says has eliminated hundreds of "terrorists" but the HDP claims has killed dozens of civilians.

"Is it possible to call this regime in which civilians' freedoms are violated in an uninterrupted way a democracy?" asked Demirtas.

"The prime minister (Ahmet Davutoglu) says that civilian massacres do not happen. But there are babies and women (among the dead). More than 190 dead, is that not a massacre?" he added.

A military operation backed by a curfew has been in place since December 14 in the town of Cizre and the Sur district of Diyarbakir city since December 2, raising alarm about the welfare of civilians left inside.

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