Selahattin Demirtas was born on 10th of April, 1973 in Surici town of central Sur District in Diyarbakir. He is the second son of a worker dad and a housewife mother with seven children. His childhood years were spent under the government’s martial law regime following Turkey’s 1980 military coup where the majority of human rights were violated. During his youth in 1990s, the human rights were severely violated again in Diyarbakir which is the symbolic center of the geography in Turkey where mainly Kurdish people reside.
After receiving his high school education, he went to Izmir Dokuz Eylul University to study Maritime Business Administration. He moved to city of Izmir in western of Turkey with his brother, Nurettin Demirtas. In his second year of university, he and his brother Nurettin Demirtas were detained. He witnessed that his brother was tortured and ill-treated. He was released but his brother was arrested.
Following these events, he dropped out of his university education and moved back to Diyarbakir and started to work at his father’s plumber shop. His family failed to hire a lawyer for his brother Nurettin Demirtas for a long time due to the heavy pressures on lawyers and this became an important motivation for Selahattin Demirtas to become a lawyer and human rights attorney.
Soon after returning back to Diyarbakir, Selahattin Demirtas was detained again in 1993. Despite the fact that he was detained in front of hundreds of people, the police authorities refused having him under custody for 15 days. His family waited for him every day in front of Diyarbakir State Security Court in such a period that the disappearances under police custody became a regular event. After having being tortured and ill-treated for 15 days, Demirtas was released and started to study for the university exam again. This time he enrolled at the Law Faculty in Ankara University.
After the graduation from Law Faculty in Ankara, he moved again right back to Diyarbakir and participated in the activities to report human rights violations within the prisons of nearby cities by taking a part in the Commission of Prison in Diyarbakir Bar Association. On one hand, he was actively participating in the activities of Human Rights Association (IHD) in Diyarbakir and nearby cities and on the other hand he was voluntarily advocating the cases of victim families through the law office he has founded. He became the chairman of IHD Diyarbakir Branch in 2004 and a member of Human Rights Institute of Turkey (THIV) in 2005.
He decided to step up with the political responsibilities as he believed that as long as a democratic, peaceful and political solution has not been come up with the Kurdish issue, the continuous violations of human rights would be carried over. In his first year of political career which he started with the aim of finding a peaceful solution to Kurdish issue, he was elected as the member of parliament of Diyarbakir on July 22, 2007 with a group of independent candidates supported by Democratic Society Party (DTP). After some time, these members of parliament united under DTP and formed a Parliamentary Group in Turkish Grand National Assembly. Selahattin Demirtas was elected as the deputy chair of the DTP parliamentary group.
Upon the closure of DTP by Constitutional Court on December 11, 2009, Selahattin Demirtas and the members of parliament of DTP moved to the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and he and Gulten Kısanak were elected as the co-chairs of the party on February 1, 2010.
On June 22, 2014, Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag were elected as the co-chairs of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) which is actually united by several different parties and political groups. The President candidate of HDP, Demirtas received 9,8 percent of the votes in the elections of presidency on August 10, 2014.
On June 7, 2015 elections, HDP received 13,1 percent of the votes and won 80 seats which was a significant success as exceeding the 10 percent threshold was required to enter parliament. Ongoing peace talks, also known as the resolution process which HDP was actively involved in, were collapsed and turned into a warfare policy leading to even further severe human right violations.
Selahattin Demirtas and 10 other representatives of HDP were arrested on the night of November 4, 2016. He remains detained in Edirne F-type Prison.
He ran as the candidate of HDP in Turkey’s 2018 presidential election. Having forced to coordinate his campaign from prison for his lawyer’s appeal of release has been rejected, Demirtas got 4 million and 205 thousand votes, that is 8,4 percent of the votes, in the elections.
Selahattin Demirtas is married to Basak Demirtas and the father of two daughters, Delal and Dılda.
He released a book of short stories Seher (2017) and Devran (2019) and soon after penned his first novel Leylan (2020). His books were translated in over ten languages. Apart from the books, the songs written by him were composed and sung by several performers. He also has published paintings, drawings and cartoons.