The strongly pro-Kurdish party won the municipalities of eight cities in the region, including Diyarbakir.
With a population of 1.5 million, Diyarbakir is the leading city in Turkey’s southeast and is the hub of Kurdish nationalism. The DTP mayor of the city, Osman Baydemir, who was re-elected yesterday with a sweeping 66.5 percent of the votes, recently called it “our castle.”
In return, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan had vowed to “take that castle.” But his party’s candidate, Kutbettin Arzu, could get only 30.6 percent of the votes yesterday. Besides Baydemir’s metropolitan area, the DTP also won 14 of the 17 districts of Diyarbakir. Other parties, such as the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, or the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, which were second and third after the AKP countrywide, showed no presence here or the rest of the southeastern cities.
This is a very strong comeback for the DTP, which some observers see as the political wing of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. In the general elections of July 2007, in it was overshadowed by AKP’s phenomenal success in Kurdish areas.
At least 10,000 people gathered in front the DTP headquarters last night to celebrate this victory. There were men and women, the young and the old, the modern and the conservative. Women in headscarves were chanting around fires along with girls in blue jeans.
There was a notably high number of youth who were all cheerful about not just the DTP, but also the PKK. Its leader, Abdullah Öcalan, who has been in a Turkish jail since 1999, was frequently praised. When his posters were shown, enthusiastic supporters chanted his nickname, “Apo, Apo, Apo.” At some point a slogan filled the air: “The PKK is the people! And the people are here!” It was followed by another one: “Hey Turko, go home, Amed is not yours.” Amed is the ancient name given to Diyarbakir in the Kurdish language.
At some point some of the pro-PKK youngsters started to rally toward the AKP headquarters, which is just a few blocks from the DTP’s. A few of them started to throw stones at the building and at a small group of policemen who tried to protect themselves with their plastic shields near their panzer. Meanwhile, the slogan “Turko, go home!” turned into “AKP, go home!” For these young militants, the AKP was simply just another arm of the Turkish state, which they perceived as an “occupier.”
“The Kurds who vote for the AKP are traitors,” said one young man in the crowd. “They think more about money than freedom.”
Zeynep, 21, a young university student, put this in a better perspective: “The AKP gets votes from the older generation who are more conservative and religious,” she explained. “But for us, youngsters, there is only the DTP, because we yearn for freedom.”
Taxi driver Cemal, 37, disagreed. “These pro-DTP Kurds are looking for an independent state, but they are daydreaming,” he argued. “We will all starve if this war goes on. I have wife and kids and what I care about is the bread I can earn for them. That’s why I voted for the AKP.”