My first anniversary behind bars: We will never kneel

It has been some 15 months since the government appointed a proxy to replace me as the mayor of Diyarbakır, and exactly one year since I was arrested.

Today, I write from prison in Kayseri, central Anatolia.

I have followed the news as best I can throughout this process. What people went through outside, we here have gone through similar things, and it seems likely that the outside and the inside will equalise at some point. The government is working hard at turning the whole country into an open prison, so while we are prisoners inside, society at large is also captive on the outside.

Looking back at this year, I see a lightning-fast trial for myself. Facing justice has been a veritable cabaret. I was arrested over the lies of an informant. The lies were proven to be so by the state’s own institutions, in well-documented fashion, but the heads of the cabaret ignored that. I doubt they even fully paid attention to the defence I and my lawyers offered.

Those who are afraid of the truth, and frankly of us, chose not to show interest in actual evidence. Last week there was a hearing for a propaganda charge against me. I was not allowed to defend myself. The judges stopped me three times. They wanted to turn a political case into a criminal one. They used justice as a tool for their politics. They have added another brick to the wall of injustice they are building via a massacre of the law.

These oddities of justice happen every day. They want people to get used to injustice and lawlessness. Because when the people don’t think their lawlessness is odd, when everybody is used to this, they will have taken over the whole country. That is precisely why we must not get used to this, and keep speaking out.

Our government du jour implements all its extrajudicial acts gradually, allowing society to warm up to them, getting people to take them for granted. It works to create a habitat for a handful of sycophants, to protect their interests. The government does not think of the people at all. It tries to keep up its hold on power, by creating religious covers for its tyranny. The judicial system today kills justice, tramples the law, and legitimises bullying.

“No tyranny is crueller than that which is practiced in the shadow of the law and with the trappings of justice,” said Montesquieu centuries ago, as if he was gazing into Turkey today.

All institutions in Turkey today have dedicated all their resources to legitimise tyranny under the guise of justice. Every person in the country is forced to believe the lies we are told through the media. Naturally, the pursuit of justice has been shaped accordingly.

There are hundreds of thousands of people in the country who still believe that there are secret clauses to the Treaty of Lausanne, which prevent Turkey from taking its rightful place in the world order.

There are millions of people in the country who still believe that my party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and the Kurdish people in general are terrorists.

The government has created this social fabric, through discriminatory language. To remain in power, they imitate Nazi propagandists. Every day they declare war on a new country, a new people, and create enemies to influence our people with their racist rhetoric. They act like the whole world is against Turks, as if all countries have declared war on Turkey.

This is part of their ploy. They create external enemies to use for racist purposes, and polarise people within to create two extremes of traitors and patriots, those who oppose them and those who stand by them. They hope people would meekly wait at their feet because nobody wants to be a traitor.

A handful of people who see this deception resist against fascism, and seek the truth in the face of lies. They pay the price for it. The HDP is a guiding light in this search.

As the year of my tyrannical arrest comes to a close, my party has just turned eight.

We are, with our party, the followers of a handful of truth-seekers who stood against tyranny throughout the ages on these lands. Those ruling over this country have never allowed space for democratic politics, instead those who pursue their legitimate rights were targeted. From the early days of the republic to the current day, the people have always faced the threat of the gallows and the prisons.

The HDP was not established merely eight years ago. I was not arrested one year ago. There is a past, there is a history, going back decades.

We are the descendants of Prometheus against Zeus, of Spartacus fighting slavery, of al-Hallaj, executed on the banks of the Tigris, of Sheikh Bedreddin, executed after a rebellion. We come from the revolutionary traditions of Turkey, and the Kurdish people.

We have not come out of nowhere. We are not made of mere flesh and blood. We are a collective of ideas that go back centuries. The HDP was not established eight years ago. We were not arrested one year ago.

The Kurdish issue goes back centuries, only expanding due to the tyrannical regime that followed the founding of the republic. It grew further when rebellions were crushed with extreme violence. In the last decade, the end seemed close enough to touch, but violence and oppression took the stage again and prevented a solution. In this downward spiral of violence, all other issues in the country have gotten worse.

Trying to resolve decades-worth of conflict regarding the Kurdish issue via violence has led to crises in the economy, health, education and cultural spheres as well. People grew poorer every day, the quagmire swallowed Turkey’s healthcare system, natural resources were plundered by profiteers, and cults took over education. Turkey’s peoples were pitted against each other and the country was dragged off a cliff. The HDP was established to offer a way for people to come together.

The HDP came together with the understanding that fascism could only be defeated through unity and solidarity. We joined the party to carry forward the hope it created. I have served in the caucus, as a member of parliament, as a mayor, in all positions.

I knew more or less what taking on such roles would entail. Anybody who shines a light on this dark spiral will pay the price, as I am doing now. I am still glad I’m paying, I regret nothing.

Thousands of politicians are in prison, and the government could arrest thousands more. They can torture hundreds of thousands of people, they can impose economic oppression on many more, but what they can’t do is resolve the issue with such methods. What they can do won’t intimidate us, they can only push us closer to victory. We will never step back. Our party, the HDP, will never kneel.

From my prison cell I celebrate the HDP’s anniversary.

We must insist on engaging with democratic politics, at such a time when it is demonised, and its proponents labelled terrorists and traitors to isolate them from society. The dismissals of mayors, appointment of proxies, arrests and operations want to put a stop to legal politics, to crush all opposition groups. It is imperative to resist as fascism moves to take prisoner all peoples. Only by resisting fascism and organising can we void these attacks.

I have never lost my faith or hope behind these walls. Hope is the unity of all of the opposition uniting against this fascistic front. Hope is them all working together. To march on to the darkness without fear. I fully believe that we will succeed in this fight with our resolve.

Dr Mızraklı, HDP, is the elected mayor of Diyarbakır municipality. He was detained on alleged links with the "terror organisation" on Oct 22, 2019.