Peoples’ Candidate for Change: Selahattin Demirtaş
Selahattin Demirtaş was born in Diyarbakır, Turkey in 1973 where he completed both his primary and secondary education. Upon graduation he took the university entrance exam and started his college education in 9 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 in the following local election and Demirtaş replaced him as the chair of the IHD Diyarbakır. During his term as chair, the association focused heavily on the increasing unsolved political murders in Turkey. Demirtaş is among the founding members of the Turkish Human Rights Association (TIHV) and the Diyarbakır post of Amnesty International.
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 reelected 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 to be the new 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). Peoples’ Candidate for Change, Selahattin Demirtaş is married to Başak Demirtaş and is the father of two young girls, Delal and Dılda.
Demirtaş described his vision for Presidency on June 30, 2014 in a few words during the press conference in which he announced his candidacy: “We aim to put an end to the over-serious and scary statist persona now in place; to show everyone that the state can be governed in a cheerful and democratic manner too. We will work to make the State and the Presidency serve the people and to make all state organs function at the behest of the people.”