Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani urges support for peace process in Diyarbakır rally with Turkish PM
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) and the President of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani (C) greet the crowd during a mass opening ceremony in Diyarbakır, Nov. 16. AA photoThe leader of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government, Masoud Barzani, has lent his full support to the Turkish government’s peace bid during a joint rally with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Diyarbakır today.
“My request from my Kurdish and Turkish brothers is to support the peace project. I want to tell them that we support the peace process with all our force,” Barzani told the crowd during his first official visit to southeastern Turkey.
“The time in the Middle East for living together has come. We can carry our people to happier days if we follow the methods of living together. Wars have been tried. The days when the blood of a young Turkish man was spilled by a Kurdish youth or the blood of a young Kurdish man was spilled by a Turkish youth are over,” Barzani said.
The Iraqi Kurdish leader finished his speech with a few words in Turkish. “Long live Turkish and Kurdish brotherhood. Long live peace. Long live freedom,” Barzani said.
A new Turkey 'where prisons empty'
For his part, Erdoğan begun his speech by commemorating Barzani’s father, a religious leader, who found refuge in the eastern district of Şemdinli district 81 years ago after villages in northern Iraq were bombed.
“Just like your father and your uncles, welcome to the Turkish Republic, the land of your brothers,” Erdoğan said, addressing Barzani. Erdoğan also welcomed Kurdish musician Şivan Perwer and cited Ahmet Kaya, another iconic Kurdish musician who died 13 years ago to the day in forced exile after being demonized in Turkey for announcing that he would include a Kurdish song in a new album.
“I wish one person could have been here too, another voice of this land could have been among us,” Erdoğan said, reciting the lyrics of one of Kaya’s most known – and saddest - folk tunes, “Diyarbakır Türküsü.”
Erdoğan also pronounced the word “Kurdistan” for the first time as he greeted the people “of the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.”
During his speech, Erdoğan stressed the difficulties in and resistance to solving the Kurdish issue and asked the Kurdish population to support the ongoing resolution process.
“We will witness a new Turkey where those in the mountains come down, the prisons empty and the 76 million [citizens of Turkey] become one,” Erdoğan said, hinting at a general amnesty demanded by many Kurdish groups, including the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).
“In Diyarbakır, the city of brotherhood, we are brothers from time immemorial. We are not fellow travelers, we also share the same faith,” Erdoğan said.
“What can cause more indignation than a mother unable to speak with her child in her own language? I know how Perwer’s records were hidden and listened to in secret. I have heard a lot stories of unsolved murders or exile,” Erdoğan said, vowing the government’s determination to solve the Kurdish issue.
“I have one request. If you support this process, believe me, it will become bigger. If you look after this spring, it will become permanent. If Diyarbakır looks after this hope, the little trees will become sycamores. Don’t forget, words are more effective than guns, politics are more effective than violence,” Erdoğan said, stressing that the Kurdish population should feel like it is part of the republic.
“This republic belongs as much as to Diyarbakır residents as to İzmir, Istanbul or Ankara residents. This state is your state. This flag is your flag. You are true citizens of this country, the owner of this state. Nobody can treat you as a second-class citizen, Nobody can assimilate you,” he said.
Today’s visit is expected to revive a stalled Kurdish peace process and deal with the latest developments in northern Syria, were the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) has announced the establishment of a constituent assembly as a “first step” toward an autonomous administration. Both Ankara and Arbil have criticized the stance of the Syrian Kurdish organization, which is ideologically close to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Earlier, Erdoğan made his first visit in 11 years to Mayor Osman Baydemir at the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality. Prominent politicians such as independent Diyarbakır deputy Leyla Zana, independent Mardin deputy Ahmet Türk and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) lawmakers Sırrı Sakık and Altan Tan also participated in the meeting.
Baydemir said the meeting had been very fruitful. “This meeting is contributing to peace based on the brotherhood law which is needed by us all.”
Baydemir, who will not run in the upcoming local elections, added that he joked with Erdoğan on his project ideas. “I said we could have asked him for ideas for projects had he come earlier,” Baydemir told reporters.
Erdoğan then visited the governor’s office, where he was joined by Barzani and Perwer, who came this morning with a convoy from Arbil.
Deputy Prime Ministers Bülent Arınç, Beşir atalay and Bekir Bozdağ joined Erdoğan during the visit. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who returned from Myanmar yesterday, was also in Diyarbakır after postponing a visit to Washington that was due to start today.