Islamist party eyes victory or second place in Diyarbakır
Emine Kart DİYARBAKIR / ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Hundreds of Hüda-Par sympathizers gather for an election rally in the eastern province of Van. ‘The aim is to win and we don’t assume that we will get less than 40 percent of the votes,’ a mayoral candidate says. AA PhotoFor the Free Cause Party (Hüda-Par), founded in December 2012 by members of a defunct association with reported links to Turkey’s outlawed Islamist Hizbullah organization, the upcoming March 30 local elections are the first ever elections in which it will run.
“We are asking for the votes that have previously been entrusted to other parties because we did not exist as a political party on the ground,” Hüseyin Yılmaz, Hüda-Par’s mayoral candidate for Diyarbakır, told the Hürriyet Daily News over the weekend.
Yılmaz is the former chair of the now-defunct Association for Solidarity with The Oppressed (Mustazaf-Der).
Mustazaf-Der was shut down in May 2012 for alleged links with the Hizbullah terror organization, which is unrelated to the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah.
Yılmaz, who is a lawyer by profession, admitted that a number of former Hizbullah members who served their sentences are now representing Hüda-Par. However, he insisted that there is no difference between a former convict and an ordinary citizen, as long as the former has served whatever his sentence is.
“They are using the presence among us of individuals who were convicted of being members of Hizbullah as a method to ‘illegalize’ our party,” he said.
When asked what Hüda-Par’s goal was in Diyarbakır, Yılmaz sounded confident, responding: “Winning.”
“The aim is to win and we don’t assume that we will get less than 40 percent of the votes. For us, winning would be a success. Being the third party, however, would definitely be a failure,” he said.
The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) and its predecessor parties have been holding the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality since 1999, having won three consecutive local elections since then. It remains the runaway favorite to win the March 30 election as well.
Yılmaz therefore suggested that targeting second place in the election was a realistic target, saying his party should aim to receive more votes than the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“We are dealing with our own struggle and are not interested in the ‘shift,’” Yılmaz said, referring to arguments over whether they will attract people who earlier voted for the AKP or for the BDP.
“We cannot know from whom we will get more of the votes ... Additionally, there are also people who didn’t go to the ballot boxes previously, and we are expecting some of those people to favor us. Once, if a person’s Kurdish identity is dominant he would vote for the BDP, and if a person’s Muslim identity is dominant he would vote for the AKP. But now there is Hüda-Par, and people from both sides will go to the polls for us,” he elaborated.
Members and staff from the BDP’s provincial branch, as well as from election offices in Diyarbakır’s districts, accuse Hüda-Par of “provocations” that have already led to a number of skirmishes between young supporters of the two parties.
Yılmaz refuted these claims. “They are the ones provoking conflict with us because the BDP and the PKK [the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] do not want to lose ground. They are deceiving young people in order to get them to attack us,” he claimed.
The roots of the hostility between the two parties go back a long way. Similar to how Hüda-Par has a connection with Hizbullah, the BDP shares the same grassroots as the PKK. The jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan’s posters are hung in every election office, as well as in the BDP provincial branch’s headquarters. “Freedom for Öcalan” is also a popular slogan shouted by people during the BDP’s electioneering.
Back in 1990s, the two organizations fought each other, while also fighting with the Turkish state security forces.
In 2000, Hizbullah’s founder Hüseyin Velioğlu was shot dead by police in a siege in Istanbul, while more raids hampered it further. According to unconfirmed reports, during the near decade-long fight between the two groups, around 700 people lost their lives.
Today, it is a soft-spoken Yılmaz who criticizes Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s style, which he says is “excluding” and “otherizing.”
“A Muslim should be moderate. If you are governing, then you should leave your party’s pin aside. You should approach and treat all equally without regarding sectarian, religious and ethnic differences - Armenians, Greeks, Yezidis and Assyrians,” he said, noting his disapproval of remarks by Erdoğan.
“They [his opponents] have even called us Jews, Armenians and, pardon the word, Greeks,” Erdoğan said in an interview in 2011.
According to Yılmaz, the use of the word “pardon” for any person or people is not fair and he added that “a Muslim should not deviate from justice.”