Three days to go to elections in Turkey: campaign by Kurds steps up

Last few days of campaign before the general election on 12 June. Things are frenzy. But in a nice kind of way. There is hope and everybody looks at Sunday as at the possibility of a new beginning. A new page. The independent candidates belonging to the Labor, Democracy and Freedom Block keep repeating this at every meeting they go to: June 12 will be a new beginning, for bad or for good.
Diyarbakir is particularly heptic with dozens of election offices openings and dozens of meetings. There are hundreds of people involved in the preparation of this election. Hundreds of women, youngsters, older people: all united and convinced that the result for the Block, and for the Kurds will be historic. They have good reasons to thing that. It takes just to have a stroll around the city’s neighbouroods to see that everywhere is yellow, green and red. The Kurdish colours. Kayapinar is a recently build neighbourood, it started to come up around 6 years ago. Now there are over 200 thousand people living there. The mayor in pectore, Mahmut Dag, said that the composition is mainly state workers. The actual mayor is in prison, he has been arrested along with thousands of Kurdish politicians in the past two years, in the context of what has become known as the KCK (Kurdish Communities Congress).
So Mahmut Dag is acting as mayor of Kayapinar. He is also heavily involved in the campaign to get Hatip Dicle elected. Indeed these elections bear many symbols. Kayapinar is a good example of this. The mayor of the neighbourood is in prison and so is the Block Kurdish Constituency candidate. So the mayor in pectore is actually running the campaign to get the candidate elected. Hatip Dicle is a symbol himself. He has indeed been in parliament before. He was elected with DEP party in the early ’90s together with Leyla Zana (and eight other deputies). They never had the chance to prove themselves as representatives of their people because they were arrested shortly after entering the Ankara assembly. Hatip Dicle (like Leyla Zana, who is also a candidate in Diyarbakir) spent 10 years in prison for the only fault of being Kurd and defending the rights of the Kurdish people. When he and his three collegues were released, in 2004, they all went straight into ‘active’ (i.e. in the streets) politics again. He has been arrested in the context of the KCK operation and now is running once again as a candidate. Mayor in pectore Mahmut Dag agrees that “The Turkish state fears people like Hatip Dicle and Leyla Zana” because they represent the people. “These elections – he says – will be historic. For good or for bad. One thing we have already achieved – he adds – the Kurdish people will never keep their mouth shut again”. And he is right. The evening’s opening of the different election offices in the area showed precisely this: the Kurdish people have taken back their right to speak (and they do it in Kurdish), their right ultimately to exist. And they did this paying a very high price. It is because of that that they do not intend to give an inch back to the state. In the last 3 days there have been as many election offices openings in Kayapinar. Hundreds of people attended. And they are doing so for weeks now. People come in and out of the offices during the day. They want to see the election card, which is a kind of ‘sheet’. Indeed it is almost one metre long. The names of the independent candidates are the last, after the party’s names and symbols. The names of the independent candidates are written in very small letters, which makes it difficult to read. Especially for those who cannot read. But the people have studied ways to avoid the problem, and so they  have photocopied the election card and they are distributing the copies to the people, explaining and showing where to put the X.
Each election office has 3 or 4 teams of 3 people. They have divided the constituency and each team makes sure to go door by door to explain to people how to cast their vote. Or rather, where to put the X. “We have around 100 people – says Tuncay at one of Kayapinar offices – and we have first instructed them about how to explain to people what needs to be done”. It is an efficient machine, the one the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) has set up. They all know how important these elections are going to be and they all want to play their part. It is incredible to seat and watch them coming and going from an office to another. In between going around the houses to explain to people how to cast their vote, they find the time to go canvassing along the streets. Shopkeepers welcome them in and start explaining the business problems. “Unemployment – said mayor Mahmut Dag – is very high and then of course there is the problem of repression”. In the first 5 months of 2011 thousands have been taken into custody, mainly young people. Often just for participating to a demonstration of march. The F-16 keep flying over Diyarbakir sky. “They are going to the mountains, – says one woman – but no matter how many planes they send, how many people they arrest, we will come out more and more”. The sense of rightness of their cause is what strucks more. No matter how heavy the repression this people will not give up their fight. One more opening, again in Kayapinar, Metropol. Diyarbakir Mayor, Osman Baydemir is addressing a crowd of several hundreds. “We are here and we are here to stay”, he says and the crowd cheers.


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