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Turkey’s pro-Kurdish opposition struggles to be heard

Two years after its leader was jailed, the Peoples' Democratic Party is still in parliament, but continues to face a crackdown that a European Parliament report included as a reason to halt EU membership talks with Turkey.
Supporters of the Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) gather during a rally in Istanbul, Turkey September 2, 2018. REUTERS/Umit Bektas - RC19F7CAEBF0

ISTANBUL — Five months ago, Selahattin Demirtas, a popular Kurdish politician jailed for his fiery speeches targeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, staged an unlikely challenge from his prison cell to unseat Turkey’s ruler, finishing a surprise third in the historic vote.

Now, Demirtas spends his days writing fiction or preparing his defense in the dozens of prosecutions he faces as he marks his second year in prison this month. His Twitter account, from which he staged virtual “campaign rallies” and poked fun at this confinement, is silent for weeks at a time. In his absence, his Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the parliament’s third-biggest grouping, has chosen new leaders but struggled to make its voice heard amid a media boycott and after thousands of its activists were arrested.

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