By Dr. M. Koohzad:
June 7th 2015 must be remembered as one of the most significant days in the annals of history and geography, and in cultural, political and economic relations of the Kurds within Turkey, within the Mideast, and the entire world. On this auspicious day, for the first time, a relatively new Kurdish political party, the Halkların Demokratik Partisi or People’s Democratic Party, known as HDP, delivered a major setback to the Islamist ruling party, the AKP. After hearing the news, for the first time in over a dozen years, President Erdogan disappeared, went silent, and shed a few drops of tears for losing the majority status in the Grand Turkish National Assembly. He was most upset because he could not become an absolute Sultan of the country. Those who previously voted for him and his party had become fed up with his lies, deceptions, and involvement in Jihadist terrorism.
Led by a dynamic human rights attorney, Selahattin Demirtash, HDP’s candidates included women, as well as gays and lesbians. The highest proportion of any party in Turkey and perhaps in the whole world, 31 out of 79 or nearly 40% of HDP’s legislators were women. The list also included Armenians, Yazidis and openly gay candidates that will serve in the Turkish Parliament. The candidates appealed to voters whose objective was to curb Mr. Erdogan’s powers and ambitions. In the aftermath of the election, as soon as the results became known, Demirtash declared “We, the oppressed people of Turkey who want justice, peace and freedom, have achieved a tremendous victory today.”
Only four days before this historical election, a concerned Kurdish scholar, Professor Dr. Amir Sharifi (June 3, 2015) concluded “The larger question is the political outcome of moving from the bullet to the ballot to meaningfully engage in a genuine peace process.” He added, with beating the threshold level “Kurds in Turkey hope to bring about any genuine political change and reform and reverse the emergence of a religious autocracy”.
After the 1980 atrocious American-sponsored coup, the army set the electoral threshold at 10%, the highest in the world, of votes to make it into the Turkish Grand National Assembly. With six million votes, the Kurds shattered the legacy of this military dictatorship by obtaining 13.1% of the votes and 79 seats in the Turkish Parliament. It took the Kurds in Turkey 35 years of smart political maneuvering to surpass that threshold and move towards diplomatically engaging peace talks with Ankara. The end result of such an achievement for the Kurds should translate into respect of basic human rights, full autonomy, and independence.
The ruling party’s national and foreign policy collectively can be considered as major factors influencing its poor performance in the election on June 7, 2015. Like many countries around the world, understandably, Turkey’s foreign policies are an extension of its national Islamist agenda. Under Erdogan’s leadership, poverty, inequality, war on trade unions, and aggression against the ethnic minorities, mainly the Kurds, have been on the rise. Ultimately, he wanted to be an elected powerful neo-Ottoman sultan with potent executive power similar to those of the U. S. presidency. The majority of the Turkish constituents, nearly 60%, did not like Erdogan’ s advocating regime change in Syria and pampering ISIS. These smart voters opposed both Erdogan’s domestic and foreign policies.
Turkey’s foreign relations, particularly with its neighbors, the U.S. and the EU, have been devastating during the reign of the Islamist AKP. Coined by Ahmet Davutoglu, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and now the MP, a simple nice slogan was that Ankara had “zero problems with neighbors.” Definitely, during the past four years, mainly after the Arab Spring of 2011, this catchphrase has since been modified to “zero neighbors without problems.” Ankara was a major partner in creating the Jihadist terrorists that overwhelmed South Kurdistan in Northern Iraq. On June 7th, 2015, some of the Kurds left behind in the city of Kobani danced long after midnight. They were happy for the victory of their Kurdish brothers in Turkey.
Understanding geographical patterns of being smart and crafty politicians, the HDP centered most of their campaign in Istanbul rather than in Diyarbakir in North Kurdistan, in Anatolia, occupied by Turkey. Diyarbakir is the largest city in population there. It has always been an important Kurdish center of political activities and resistance. The city is the most famous for its Newroz celebrations marking the arrival of spring and the new-year. But, Istanbul, a cosmopolitan metropolitan, is a totally different world.
Harem Karem (June 8, 2015) reported that HDP was able to form “a bridge between East and West Turkey.” Effectively, connecting the heartland of Kurdistan to the most significant historical cultural and political center in Turkey. He added that because of this smart move, “as an indicator of its reach into western Turkey, the party got one million votes and 11 seats in Istanbul.” This was a historical feat and the beginning of an epic political momentum!
Actually, Istanbul is the only large city in the world located on two continents of Asia and Europe. As an immigrant magnet, Istanbul today has a larger Kurdish population than any city in the Greater Kurdistan. Geographically speaking, Istanbul is very similar to New York City in the United States and Ankara resembles Washington. In this process Ankara has lost most of its appeal, it was left under the bridge that connects Istanbul in the west and Diyarbakir in the East. However, Ankara will be a major political battlefield for the new Kurdish elected MPs.
For such a job well done, for a remarkable, extraordinary democratic success, and for moving from bullets towards ballots, a belated congratulation is in order from all of the Kurds around the world. Of course, from this victory, other Kurdish political parties throughout the world must learn the important, valuable lesson that diplomacy can be one of the most effective ways towards peace and freedom.
Karem, Harem. “HDP Forms a Bridge Between East and West Turkey.” Kurdistan tribune.com, June 8, 2015. http://kurdistantribune.com/2015/hdp-forms-a-bridge-between-east-and-west-turkey/
Sharifi, Amir. “The Race Between HDP and AKP: Political Implications of June Elections in Turkey.” kurdistantribune.com, June 3, 2015. http://kurdistantribune.com/2015/the-race-between-peoples-hdp-and-akp-political-implications-of-june-elections-in-turkey/
Dr. M. Koohzad is a professor emeritus of Middle Eastern Studies and the author of a forthcoming book entitled: ‘Kurdistan: World’s Largest International Colony, Reflections on Its Real Political Economy’.