Selahattin Demirtaş

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Selahattin Demirtaş
Selahattin Demirtaş cropped.jpg
Chairman of the Peoples' Democratic Party
In office
22 June 2014 – 11 February 2018
Serving with 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 by Party 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 45)
Palu, Elazığ, Turkey
Political party Democratic Society Party
(Before 2008)
Peace and Democracy Party
Peoples' Democratic Party
Alma mater Ankara University

Selahattin Demirtaş (About this sound 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. Demirtaş was the presidential candidate of the HDP in the 2014 presidential election, coming in third place with 9.77% of the vote. Since November 2016 he is detained by the Turkish state. The HDP executive board has resolved on fielding Demirtaş as their candidate for the 2018 presidential election, running from prison.[1]

Early life[edit]

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 Aydin as a political awakening:

“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.

Political career[edit]

Demirtaş meeting with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz in 2013
Selahattin Demirtaş's election campaign logo
Votes obtained by Demirtaş throughout the 81 Provinces of Turkey in the 2014 presidential 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.

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]

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.[6] Demirtaş stated he is not a "manager, member, spokesperson, or sympathiser" of the armed PKK group.[7]

On January 18, 2017, Turkish prosecutors announced they were seeking a 142-year prison sentence for Demirtaş.[8]

Demirtaş was officially announced as the candidate of the People's Democratic Party (HDP) on 4 May 2018 for the Turkish presidential election, 2018, after members of the party had hinted at his candidacy weeks in advance.[9] Party leader Pervin Buldan declared that Demirtaş, a jailed former co-chair of the HDP, would be leading a five-party "Kurdish alliance" into the general election.[10]

Personal life[edit]

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.[11]


  1. ^ "Turkey's top Kurdish politician to run for president from behind bars". 25 April 2018. 
  2. ^ Orhan Türkdoğan, Doğu ve Güneydoğu: Sorunlar ve Çözüm Yolları, IQ KültürSanat Yayıncılık, 2009, ISBN 9789752552623, p. 16.
  3. ^ Bellaigue, Christopher de. "The battle for Turkey: can Selahattin Demirtas pull the country back from the brink of civil war?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-30. 
  4. ^ "Kurdish problem-focused HDP announces co-chair Demirtaş as presidential candidate". 30 June 2014. Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  5. ^ "Selahattin Demirtaş, the Dimming Star of Turkish Politics". Retrieved 23 August 2016. 
  6. ^ "Turkey HDP: Blast after pro-Kurdish leaders Demirtas and Yuksekdag detained - BBC News". BBC. 2016-11-04. Retrieved 2017-03-02. 
  7. ^ "HDP's Demirtaş: I'm not a manager, member, spokesperson, or". 2015-09-09. Retrieved 2017-03-02. 
  8. ^ van Wilgenburg, Wladimir (18 January 2017). "Turkish prosecutor demands 142 years imprisonment for Kurdish leader Demirtaş, EU rapporteur outraged". ARA News. Retrieved 2017-03-02. 
  9. ^ "HDP'li yetkililer: Demirtaş, ceza çıksa da çıkmasa da aday olacak". Sputnik News. Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  10. ^ "HDP nominates imprisoned former leader Demirtaş for presidency". Hürriyet Daily News. Retrieved 4 May 2018. 
  11. ^ "HDP says co-leader escaped an assassination attempt". 23 November 2015. Retrieved 24 November 2015.