Turkish elections: HDP seeks to reclaim Kurdish heartlands

Actor Kemal Ulusoy and the rest of his Kurdish theater group lost their jobs along with thousands of others in southeast Turkey after the state seized control of about 100 town councils won by the main pro-Kurdish party at the last local elections.

Voters go to the polls again on Sunday but Ulusoy says the municipal elections are just another performance staged by authorities, after President Tayyip Erdogan warned that the elected officials may again be replaced by state appointees.

“What we are seeing is not democracy,” said Ulusoy, who has performed plays in Kurdish for nearly 30 years. “An election is only held as a formality, to give him the appearance of legitimacy. He can still do what he wants.”

Kurds make up about a fifth of Turkey’s 82 million population. The southeast, mainly Kurdish, has borne the brunt of a three-decades-old conflict between the state and autonomy-seeking PKK militants that has killed more than 40,000 people.

Erdogan, who has been in power for 16 years, says the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has ties with the outlawed militant group. The HDP denies links to the PKK.

The HDP, which has strong support in the southeast, hopes to regain control of municipalities seized by the state in 2016, about two years after the last local elections in 2014. State officials known as kayyums were appointed to run the councils.

But Erdogan has said kayyums may be appointed again if new mayors, like their predecessors, are deemed to have ties to the militants. The 31 actors in the municipal theater in the city of Diyarbakir are among 15,000 council workers who the HDP says lost their jobs after kayyums were appointed.

“This led to spectacular destruction, injustice and oppression in Diyarbakir in art and culture, as it did in every area of society,” said Ulusoy, who has set up a new theater with colleagues.

His bleak outlook was shared by HDP supporters among tens of thousands of people marking the Kurdish Newroz spring celebration in Diyarbakir who were fiercely critical of state security measures and Erdogan’s election campaigning.

“The president uses very divisive language. Anyone who doesn’t support him is painted as a traitor,” said Geylani Alpay, 63, complaining about his vehicle being searched three times on his journey to the Newroz celebrations.

Nearby, thousands of young people linked hands and danced to Kurdish music blaring from loudspeakers, while others waved red, yellow and green HDP flags. FOLLOW THE LINK TO CONTINUE READING THE INTERESTING ARTICLE