Thousands bid farewell to Kurdish politician Elçi

Thousands bid farewell to Kurdish politician Elçi

CİZRE - Hürriyet Daily News
Thousands bid farewell to Kurdish politician Elçi

Thousands of people attend the funeral ceremony for Şerafettin Elçi, a prominent Kurdish politician, that was held in his hometown of Cizre in Şırnak. AA Photo

Thousands flocked to the streets of the southeastern district of Cizre yesterday to bid farewell to late politician Şerafettin Elçi, one of the most iconic figures of the Kurdish political movement in Turkey.

Elçi, who died on Dec. 25, was buried in his native town of Cizre in the province of Şırnak, where his body will be “washed by the waters of the Tigris,” according to his wishes.

“I believe people are here to salute the courage that brought him from the desk of the ministry to a prison cell,” said Hüseyin Aygün, a lawmaker of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and part of a younger generation of politicians advocating Kurdish rights. Elçi caused turmoil in the 1970s when he said, “I have Kurdish origins” – the first-ever member of Turkish Parliament to openly declare his Kurdish roots – and for speaking in Kurdish to constituents from Diyarbakır who did not know Turkish.

While the CHP was represented by a delegation headed by two deputy leaders, it was the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) that no doubt enjoyed huge popularity, as co-leaders Selahattin Demirtaş and Gültan Kışanak, along with many high-level figures, were applauded by thousands as they approached the mosque where the religious ceremony was held.

KRG offical at funeral

A delegation from Masoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), to which Elçi was known to be close, also came to Cizre from northern Iraq. Flags of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) were seen in the hands of several children, while a bigger one led the group that brought the coffin to Ulucami, a 12th-century mosque. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, also a Kurd and who is receiving care in a German hospital following a stroke, sent a wreath.

The flag of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was hung briefly on two occasions from the walls surrounding the mosque, while the portrait of its jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan, appeared at the moment the coffin entered the mosque.

“He was the uncle of my friend. [He was] a very good person. I am not a Kurd but he cared a lot for me,” said Yalçın Yardımcı, who is currently working as a notary in Kızıltepe, a mainly Kurdish town 170 kilometers away from Cizre.

“’We are the last generation [that can] solve this problem,” Elçi said in his last public statement.
“This is very important. I have been in Kızıltepe for three-and-a-half years and our work is very difficult with the new generations,” Yardımcı said.

“His presence served as a bridge between two communities that are increasingly falling apart,” said Gencay Gürsoy, a human rights activist. “I hope his last statement will [encourage] the current political elites.”