Iraqi-Kurdish leader sends his brother to attend Turkish-Kurdish politician's funeral
Emine Kart ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Parliament Speaker Cemel Çiçek, PM Erdoğan and CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu attend an official funeral ceremony held in Parliament for Şerafettin Elçi. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ
The Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq will be well represented at the funeral of veteran Kurdish politician and Diyarbakır deputy Şerafettin Elçi, who passed away the night of Dec. 25.
Masoud Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), is expected to be represented by his brother Sidad Barzani at Elçi’s funeral, which is set to be held in his hometown of Cizre, Şırnak, today, Iraqi-Kurdish sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
Fazil Mirani, secretary-general of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), is also expected attend the funeral, the same sources said. Elçi, the head of the Participatory Democracy Party (KADEP), had close relations with the Barzani family and Kurdish politicians in Iraq.
The loss of Elçi, born in 1938, stirred sorrow among people from different ideological camps as he was widely considered to be a wise man who insisted on dialogue as a means of finding the solution to the Kurdish issue rather than the use of violence by any parties involved in the conflict.
Shortly after Elçi passed away, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited his family to extend his condolences, while President Abdullah Gül released a message of condolence in which he underlined Elçi’s efforts to resolve problems through dialogue.
Expressing deep sadness over the loss of Elçi, Gül described him as a precious statesman and politician who performed significant services for his country.
“The loss of Şerafettin Elçi who – as an experienced figure – exerted intense efforts to resolve problems through dialogue and for consolidation of the peace and brotherhood environment in the country will always be felt in our political world,” Gül said.
Deputies from the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) as well as independent deputies Ahmet Türk and Leyla Zana also visited the Elçi family.
“Our pain is grave,” Türk told reporters. “Through his life, Elçi has always been sensitive in the freedom struggle of the Kurdish people. But he acted in politics by prioritizing his intellect over his senses,” Türk said.
A thorny life
In the June 2011 elections, Elçi was elected as an independent candidate for the Labor, Democracy and Freedom Bloc supported by the BDP and returned to Parliament for the first time since first being elected to Parliament more than three decades before.
Elçi spent eight months in Diyarbakır Prison, infamous for the abuse of its inmates, following the March 12, 1971, military intervention.
In 1977, after being elected to Parliament as a Justice Party (AP) deputy from Mardin, Elçi resigned from the AP to protest the establishment of the Second Nationalist Front Government led by Süleyman Demirel and served as public works minister in the subsequent Bülent Ecevit government.
After the 1980 coup, Elçi faced a court case due to his political statements and served a 30-month prison sentence. In the 1970s he caused a huge turmoil when he said, “I have Kurdish origins” – the first-ever member of Turkish Parliament to openly declare his Kurdish origins – and for speaking in Kurdish to constituents from Diyarbakır who did not know Turkish.
“Turkey’s quest for democratization has lost an honorable and consistent voice,” renowned novelist Yaşar Kemal said in a message following Elçi’s death. “He was a hero.”
An official ceremony was held yesterday in Parliament to pay respects to Elçi.
Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek, Erdoğan, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, BDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş, the deputy prime ministers – Bülent Arınç, Ali Babacan, Beşir Atalay and Bekir Bozdağ – and a huge crowd of former and current lawmakers and bureaucrats attended the ceremony.