Turkey's Kurds Seek Way Forward Amid Post-election Crackdown

November 04,2015

DIYARBAKIR, SOUTHEASTERN TURKEY— The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has widened a crackdown on media and on what Ankara sees as separatists in the southeastern part of the country after his party regained control of parliament in snap elections. Meanwhile, a Kurdish-dominated party lost seats in Sunday’s poll, and Turkey’s Kurds are now looking for a way forward in their pursuit of autonomy.

Diyarbakir wears the scars of violence that preceded the elections. A nearly 500-year-old mosque in the city was the scene of a clash between Turkish security forces and Kurdish separatists whom Turkey – along with the U.S. – considers terrorists.

Erdogan’s government re-launched the war on separatists after June’s inconclusive elections, and the crackdowns continue.

Now, with Erdogan's party firmly back in control, Diyarbakir’s Kurds have woken up to the old reality. Autonomy seems more distant than ever, and the road to it ever unclear.

Protesters are seen during minor clashes with police forces in Diyarbakir, in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast, Nov. 1, 2015.
Protesters are seen during minor clashes with police forces in Diyarbakir, in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast, Nov. 1, 2015.

“The Kurdish people are tired of war, tired of armed conflict. They want to have a solution - a peaceful, a political solution for the Kurdish question,” said Sertac Bucak, a Kurdish Democratic Platform official.

How a political solution can come remains a big question. Many Kurds in the city boycotted the vote and the Kurdish party got fewer votes than in June.

“The Kurdish party, HDP, promised before the elections of the 7th of June to forward, to support the peace process. And they said that if you vote for HDP, you are going to have the guarantee for the Kurdish people to have a justice solution, a peaceful solution of the Kurdish question. So this didn’t happen,” said Bucak.

Another blow to the Kurds in the elections run-up was the Turkish government’s crackdown on journalists, especially those with the Kurdish media like web-based news agency Dicle, whose offices were raided by security forces weeks before the poll. Its director and writers went to jail.

“The day of the operation they entered our building with guns. Like all members of the media, we have press cards issued by the Turkish state. We showed these cards, but none of them cared that we had these accreditations,” said Omer Celik of the Dicle News Agency.

Turkey’s leadership has promised to restart the peace process. But with arrests and crackdowns on the media continuing after the elections, and yet more parts of the region coming under curfew, there are no signs yet of when or how that process will start.