CHP leader goes to Diyarbakır, focuses on Kurdish issue
On June 20, that is tomorrow, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), will be in the pre-dominantly Kurdish-populated city of Diyarbakır, in Turkey’s southeast, where he will attend an interesting meeting.
The meeting is organized by the Tigris Communal Research Center (DİTAM), a local think tank, as a part of its “Tigris Dialogue” seminars, in reference to the river Tigris, which the city is located on.
For three hours, Kılıçdaroğlu will answer the questions of 20 NGO representatives from not only Diyarbakır but also from neighboring cities. There is no doubt that Turkey’s chronic Kurdish issue is going to be the number one item on the agenda. The CHP head will be the second party leader to be invited to the Tigris Dialogue seminars, after Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-leader of the Kurdish problem-focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which shares the same grassroots as the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
DİTEM invited Kılıçdaroğlu at a time when important domestic and international developments are taking place. Those are the upcoming presidential elections, of which the first round will be held on Aug. 10; the dialogue initiative of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan with the PKK in pursuit of a political settlement; and the civil war(s) in Syria and Iraq, which have led to another Kurdish-controlled (with PKK influence) territory on Turkey’s border with Syria, after the one in Iraq; and, of course, there is also the sectarian fight in Iraq, in which Kurdish parties also play a role.
Kılıçdaroğlu recently made a call to the BDP (under its new roof as the Peoples’ Democracy Party, or HDP) to support the joint opposition presidential candidate against the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Parti) candidate, whether this is PM Erdoğan or someone else. Demirtaş’s answer was that this would depend on the candidate, since the BDP/HDP would not consider supporting any names who have taken a stance against Kurdish demands in the past. That reply came before the CHP announced its candidate as Dr. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the former secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), who is also fully supported by the second largest opposition party, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
That did not seem to attract the BDP, which immediately proposed Rıza Türmen of the CHP, a former diplomat and a former judge of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), as its candidate. It’s true that İhsanoğlu comes from a conservative background, and the fact that the Turkish nationalist MHP’s agreement on his name is not a positive point for the BDP, but İhsanoğlu is a man of moderation, and has not taken any stance against the individual and cultural rights of Kurds. In response to the offer from the BDP, Türmen said “No, thank you,” but the offer clearly indicated a tendency within the BDP that is open for dialogue with the CHP - as the Diyarbakır meeting also shows - before the presidentials.
The PKK and the BDP are suspicious that the Erdoğan government is playing with time in order to postpone answering their demand for more autonomy and more flexible prison conditions - if not release - for jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan until after the presidential elections. They also suspect he may then only postpone it again until after the parliamentary elections in June 2015.
It seems the BDP’s possible feelings are reciprocal. On June 13, Kılıçdaroğlu held a meeting with a group of Kurdish opinion holders in Istanbul, in order to exchange views about Erdoğan’s Kurdish initiative and the expectations of Kurdish voters from the CHP.
All this makes the Friday meeting of Kılıçdaroğlu with Kurdish NGO’s more interesting to consider for any results ahead of the election.