Erdoğan attempts to mend fences with Kurds
SİİRT - Hürriyet Daily News | 5/19/2011 12:00:00 AM | GÖKHAN KURTARAN
The Turkish prime minister aims to mend fences with Kurds living in the southeastern province of Siirt, where he won a parliamentary seat in a by-election in November 2003. While many still support the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, locals strongly favor the independent candidates supported by pro-Kurdish groups
Thousand of locals on Thursday filled the main square of Siirt, where Prime Minster Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sought to mend fences with Kurds in the southeastern province.
Outside of a group of women cheering for the ruling party’s leader, little support was visible, however. While many voters in the area still support the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, independent candidates backed by pro-Kurdish groups are strongly favored.
Noting that he had won a parliamentary seat in Siirt in a by-election in November 2003, Erdoğan asked local residents to give “the same support that you have given before.”
Often referring to religion in the conservative city, the prime minister reminded the audience of recent remarks by Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, calling him the “God of the status quo.”
Many people strolling through the streets of the poor city strongly criticized Erdoğan, saying the region has been left behind, with no major investment and high unemployment. Ahmet E., a 21-year-old unemployed man, said Erdoğan would not get the support he once did.
“We will not repeat our mistake,” he said, noting that many mayors have been detained in the region as part of the investigation into the illegal Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, that started last year.
“Independent candidates in the region are highly supported,” said the unemployed young man, accusing the AKP of threatening people with canceling their social aid.
“Let’s cry our tears together,” Erdoğan said at his campaign rally, promising the end the pain caused by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.
The prime minister emphasized that many AKP bureaus has been set on fire by the supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP. “What kind of democracy inquiry is this?” asked Erdoğan, referring to protests that erupted after 12 suspected PKK militants were killed in clashes earlier this week.
“The veto [of Kurdish candidates] by the YSK [Supreme Election Board] and the silence of the AKP after the decision has played a significant role in changing the political landscape in the region,” said Bedri E., a 28-year-old cook. He believes the prime minister is seeks to gain political advantage through the 10 percent election threshold, which would prevent the BDP from being represented in Parliament.
“This time Kurds are thinking to veto the prime minister and his party at election time,” he said. General elections in Turkey are set for June 12.
“Look at the streets of the city filled with hopeless and unemployed people,” restaurant owner Ahmet M. told the Hürriyet Daily News. “Often Erdoğan says that he is the brother-in-law of the city as his wife is originally from this city, but when it comes to investment and development, we have nothing.”
“We fear to talk freely and demonstrate democratically against the AKP as almost all attempts face prevention from security forces, unlike with the supporters of the AKP,” he added.
According to Cahit C., who is 30 years old and unemployed, the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, might get support from the hopeless and unemployed locals of the region. “More than the issues related with Kurdish and Turkish identities, we have a poverty problem here,” Cahit C. said, adding that many would still support the Kurdish candidates of the region in the election.
The women speaking to the Daily News without giving their names all agreed that Erdoğan still ranks as the top choice of the locals in the region. “He is a real leader who helps us and our kids and understands our problems,” said a woman while waiving an AKP and Turkish flag together in her hand.
Dancing happily under the burning sun, another said, “I will vote for AKP, with that way I can continue to benefit from social aid. What if another party comes into power and turns its face from us and not feed my kids?”