Turkey’s pro-Kurdish HDP party ‘halts legislative efforts’ in parliament after arrest of leaders

People hold a banner reading "Stop Erdogan (Turkey's President), do not touch our elected representatives. Turkey's government out of Rojava, out of Kurdistan" during in a protest in Place de la Republique in Paris on November 5, 2016 © Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt
Turkey’s pro-Kurdish HDP party (Peoples’ Democratic Party) has stated that it will “halt its legislative efforts” in the country’s parliament in the wake of the arrest of its leaders by the Turkish authorities.

After discussions with our parliamentary group and our central executive board, we have decided to halt our legislative efforts in light of everything that has happened,” party spokesman Ayhan Bilgen said in a statement that was read out and then posted online.

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The party will not stop its activities in the parliament entirely, however. Though its deputies will remain members, they won’t participate in general assembly sittings or parliamentary commission meetings.

On Friday, Turkey arrested the HDP’s two leaders, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, as well as 13 other legislators from the party, as part of a terrorism investigation. Over 1,000 HDP members have been formally arrested in the past year, according to Reuters.

Ankara accuses the HDP of having links to the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is banned in Turkey and has taken responsibility for several terrorist bombings. The HDP denies having these links.

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The post-coup crackdown in Turkey has seen over 35,000 people detained and tens of thousands of civil servants fired. Initially, the government-led purges only targeted people suspected of being supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a cleric who lives in self-exile in the US that Ankara believes to be behind the July crisis. However, now PKK-links are also increasingly being cited as reasons for arrest, as was the case with the recent detainment of the daily Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet’s staffers.

The crackdown has caused a wave of criticism from the EU, as well as protests.

In Paris, over 2,000 Kurds marched on Saturday carrying placards bearing such slogans as “Turkey bombs, Europe stays silent.”

READ MORE: Turkey’s EU & American allies concerned with arrests of pro-Kurdish politicians, leaders

In Cologne, Germany, up to 15,000 people rallied, according to the demonstration’s organizers. There are about one million Kurds living in Germany, making it the largest Kurdish community in Europe.

Earlier in the week, Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the recent spate of arrests of journalists in Turkey.

For me and the entire government, it is highly alarming that freedom of the press and speech are being restricted again and again,” she said on Wednesday, as reported by Hurriyet.

However, Erdogan angrily brushed off the remark and protests.

"Europe, as a whole, is abetting terrorism. Even though they declared the PKK a terrorist organization, this is clear ... We see how the PKK can act so freely and comfortably in Europe," Erdogan said in a televised speech Sunday.

"I don't care if they call me dictator or whatever else, it goes in one ear, out the other. What matters is what my people call me."