Selahattin Demirtaş

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Selahattin Demirtaş
Selahattin Demirtaş (cropped).jpg
Chairman of the Peoples' Democratic Party
Assumed office
22 June 2014
Serving with Figen Yüksekdağ
Preceded by Ertuğrul Kürkçü
& Sebahat Tuncel
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
Assumed office
22 July 2007
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 Zaza and Kurdish politician who is co-leader of the left-wing pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), serving alongside Figen Yüksekdağ. Demirtaş was the presidential candidate of the HDP in the 2014 election, coming in 3rd place with 9.77% of the vote.

Early life

Selahattin Demirtaş was born in a Zaza-speaking family[1] 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.”[2]

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 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.

Political career

Demirtaş meeting with the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz in 2013
Selahattin Demirtaş campaign poster
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 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) - for the 2014 presidential elections of Turkey, being one of three candidates in the run and hoping to gather left-wing votes.[3] 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 4th place with 13.12% of the vote and 80 out of 550 seats.

Personal life

Demirtaş is married to Başak Demirtaş and is the father of two girls, Delal and Dılda.[citation needed]


  1. Orhan Türkdoğan, Doğu ve Güneydoğu: Sorunlar ve Çözüm Yolları, IQ KültürSanat Yayıncılık, 2009, ISBN 9789752552623, p. 16.
  2. Bellaigue, Christopher de. "The battle for Turkey: can Selahattin Demirtas pull the country back from the brink of civil war? | Christopher de Bellaigue". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. pageID=238&nID=68467&NewsCatID=338 "Kurdish problem-focused HDP announces co-chair Demirtaş as presidential candidate" Check |url= value (help). 30 June 2014. Retrieved 1 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>