Europeans nominate Demirtas for award for ‘enduring struggle’ for Kurds

Source: Rudaw / / By Rudaw /

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – An imprisoned political leader in Turkey has been nominated for a European human rights prize for his part in the Kurdish struggle.

HDP coleader Selahattin Demirtas Photo HDP
HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtas. Photo: HDP

The Group of the Unified European Left (UEL) at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) announced that Selahattin Demirtas has been nominated for the 2017 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize that “rewards outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe and beyond.”

Demirtas has been detained by Turkish authorities since last November and is now held in Edirne Prison for “insulting the Turkish nation, the state of Turkish Republic and public organs and institutions.”

“The UEL Group believes that the nominee greatly deserves the recognition of his enduring struggle in the name of human rights and especially in the name of the rights of the Kurdish population,” read the parliamentarians’ statement.

Demirtas, who is a co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) defiantly refused to be shackled by Turkish prison guards the morning of a court hearing earlier this month, citing immunity as a member of parliament.

His party and the dominant Justice and Development Party (AKP) have feuded, with the former being targeted after last summer’s failed military coup.

“The support and solidarity of our comrades across the world is an invaluable support, inspiration and source of motivation. Even under the direst circumstances, we do not lose our hope to create a world free of injustice, inequalities and oppression,” Demirtas wrote in a response letter to UEL Chairman Tiny Kox.

Long before his imprisonment, Demirtas drew attention to the atrocities being committed against people in the Syrian city of Kobani at the hands of ISIS and was an outspoken critic of the government’s curfews in Kurdish-dominant areas.

The prize has been awarded since 2013. The previous winners include Nadia Murad, a Yezidi woman from Shingal who became an advocate for the survivors of ISIS atrocities after sharing her own stories of rape, as well as Lyudmila Alexeyeva, an 89-year-old Russian activist vocally critical of the Russian government.

The 2017 prizewinner will be announced in Strasbourg, France, on October 9. The awardee will receive €60,000, a trophy and a diploma.