© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Professional-Kurdish Inexperienced Left Celebration supporters attend a rally forward of the Might 14 presidential and parliamentary elections, in Diyarbakir, Turkey Might 13, 2023. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar/File Photograph
By Burcu Karakas and Umit Ozdal
ISTANBUL/DIYARBAKIR (Reuters) – Kurds against President Tayyip Erdogan worry victory for him in Turkey’s presidential election may reinforce a crackdown the state has been waging in opposition to them for years, alarmed by a surge in nationalist rhetoric forward of Sunday’s vote.
Kurds, who make up round a fifth of Turkey’s inhabitants, have been seen as probably essential to the opposition’s hopes of ending Erdogan’s 20 years in energy – a reign by which he first courted however then cracked down arduous on Kurdish teams.
However the momentum is with Erdogan going into Sunday’s vote after the primary spherical gave him a lead over the opposition’s Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who trailed regardless of the backing of six events and the endorsement of the pro-Kurdish HDP get together.
For some Kurdish voters, the stakes could not be greater as Erdogan dials up his nationalist tone in a bid to win extra votes forward of the runoff.
“Voting is a matter of life and dying now. Erdogan hardened his stance on Kurds throughout the election marketing campaign,” stated Ardelan Mese, 26, a restaurant proprietor within the primarily Kurdish metropolis of Diyarbakir within the southeast who’s urging his buddies to vote.
“I can not think about what he can be able to after declaring victory.”
The HDP gained 61% assist in Diyarbakir within the Might 14 parliamentary election, whereas Erdogan’s AKP acquired 23%. Nationwide, HDP assist was 8.9%.
The problem of HDP assist for Kilicdaroglu has this week been sophisticated by his cope with an anti-immigrant get together that HDP stated was “in opposition to common democratic ideas”. The HDP was anticipated to problem a press release on the difficulty on Thursday.
In his early years in energy, Erdogan expanded political and cultural rights for Kurds, a stateless group scattered between Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq.
He eliminated restrictions on utilizing the Kurdish language and oversaw a peace course of with the Kurdistan Staff Celebration (PKK), which took up arms in opposition to the state in 1984 and is seen as a terrorist group by Turkey and its Western allies.
However after a ceasefire collapsed in 2015, he modified course, with the authorities waging a crackdown that led to the arrest of hundreds of HDP members, usually on fees of militancy, with lots of its lawmakers and mayors unseated and jailed.
Seizing on the HDP’s assist for Kilicdaroglu, Erdogan has repeatedly accused the opposition of siding with terrorism. The HDP denies accusations of militant ties.
Erdogan additionally repeatedly drew consideration to a doctored video to accuse Kilicdaroglu of ties to the PKK, which has been waging an insurgency by which greater than 40,000 individuals have been killed.
Kilicdaroglu referred to as the accusation slanderous.
However Erdogan’s stance has gained the endorsement of Sinan Ogan, a hardline nationalist who got here third within the first spherical. Ogan has stated the endorsement was primarily based on a precept of “continuous wrestle (in opposition to) terrorism”, referring to pro-Kurdish teams.
The sloganeering marks an effort to faucet deep-running nationalist sentiment – a robust pressure in Turkish politics which has been hardened by components together with years of hostilities with Kurdish militants and the inflow of thousands and thousands of refugees from Syria since battle started there in 2011.
Critics say Kilicdaroglu has additionally struck a extra nationalist tone since a disappointing first spherical, vowing to repatriate all refugees. Turkey hosts some 5 million migrants, of whom 3.4 million are Syrians, in keeping with Inside Ministry information.
He has additionally famous Erdogan “sat on the desk with terrorist organisations” – a reference to the failed peace course of.
Tayip Temel, a senior HDP official, expressed worry that Erdogan had achieved his desired aim via “black propaganda” alleging hyperlinks between Kilicdaroglu and terrorists.
“Erdogan’s victory will consolidate one-man rule and pave the best way for horrible practices, bringing utterly darkish days for all components of society,” Temel, HDP deputy co-chair, stated.
He additionally famous Kilicdaroglu’s change to “a extra nationalistic discourse” which he stated may price him some Kurdish assist.
Reha Ruhavioglu, director of the Diyarbakir-based Kurdish Research Heart, believes many Kurdish voters have misplaced the desire to vote forward of the runoff, blaming the shift within the tone adopted by Kilicdaroglu.
“Demotivation stems from the CHP’s political discourse which shifted from reconciliation to safety politics. The HDP ought to inspire its base by saying, ‘If Kilicdaroglu loses, we lose too’,” he stated.
The HDP contested the elections beneath one other get together’s banner because of a courtroom case threatening to ban it for alleged hyperlinks to Kurdish militants, which it denies.
Critics worry a press release by Inside Minister Suleyman Soylu on Sunday accusing a gaggle of Kurdish attorneys of PKK hyperlinks could possibly be an indication of a brand new crackdown forward.
Nahit Eren, head of the Diyarbakir Bar Affiliation, advised Reuters the statements may immediate the authorities to open a brand new “terrorism investigation”.