Abdullah Demirbas, the Kurdish mayor of Sur Municipality in Diyarbakir. On his desk is a picture of his son who ran away to join the PKK guerrillas. I have a story up on Eurasianet about the dangers of growing radicalism within Kurdish youth.
Although prompt comment on current news events isn’t exactly this blog’s forte, two depressing developments have come to my attention that are worth highlighting.
The first is the decision of Turkey’s electoral board to bar 12 candidates, including the veteran Kurdish politician Leyla Zana and five other Kurdish candidates, from running for parliament in the upcoming election. You can read a good piece in the Economist about Zana’s past and current election bid here.
The court ruling has seriously harmed the electoral prospects of the main Kurdish party, the BDP. It has now threatened to boycott the elections, which I think could be a serious blow to the democratic integrity of Turkey’s political system. The BDP (not for the first time) would also be shooting itself in the foot.
It is not dissimilar to Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland in terms of its close links to the PKK; there’s no point pretending otherwise. This partly explains why the courts have pursued its politicians so ruthlessly.
But the BDP is committed to a peaceful political solution to Kurdish grievances, and are the most legitimate democratic voice of the Kurds in Turkey. They need to be accepted in mainstream politics rather than imprisoned.
Which brings me to the second depressing development (more a comment than a development, really).
PM Erdogan has uttered yet more words destined to be endlessly quoted against him by anyone with an axe to grind, and of course by journalists such as myself. During a speech yesterday he declared that ‘there is no Kurdish problem anymore’.
Maybe this was a reference to the decision by the electoral board to strike out the Kurdish candidates who would have competed with his own party? I’m guessing not. Erdogan is obviously posturing for the Turkish nationalist vote ahead of the election.
Having spent a lot of time in Diyarbakir over the past few weeks, I can emphatically say that there is a Kurdish problem.
The piece I did for Eurasianet that went up yesterday (link at top of post) shows the potential seriousness of this problem at the current moment.
Kurdish kids at a recent protest in Diyarbakir.