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In Diyarbakir, Turkey, the Kurds in the gloom

The man who speaks on the stage erected in a large square in Diyarbakir, in southeastern Turkey, is a veteran of the Kurdish movement. And he still wants to believe it. “This power is about to leave!” He will eventually fall, but we will always be there! », exclaims Ahmet Türk. A roar rises from the crowd in response, and countless red, yellow and green flags wave in rhythm. Hundreds of thousands of people turned out on March 21 to celebrate Newroz, the Kurdish New Year.

An altercation between demonstrators and the police gave rise to fears of an overflow, but a few brief instructions given in Kurdish at the microphone were enough to convince the boldest to return obediently behind the security gates. The music starts and traditional dances immediately take over the square. These few carefree hours are a breath of fresh air in a particularly gloomy political context for the majority Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP, pro-Kurdish) in the region.

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After achieving historic electoral successes and unchallenged dominance over the Kurdish southeast of Turkey, the HDP never recovered from the collapse in 2015 of the peace process between Ankara and the Kurdish guerrillas of the Party. Kurdistan workers, the PKK, at war with the Turkish state since 1984. The merciless armed conflict that had resumed in Kurdish cities between PKK militants and Turkish security forces, from summer 2015 to spring 2016 , had disastrous consequences in public opinion and considerably weakened the movement, which is still suffering repression from Ankara.

With six deputies, including its charismatic leader, Selahattin Demirtas, seven mayors and several thousand activists behind bars, the HDP is no more than a shadow of itself. On June 21, 2021, the Constitutional Court validated a legal procedure that could lead to the dissolution of the party, accused by the ruling coalition of being “political showcase” of the PKK. Mutilated by the authorities, the HDP, like the entire Kurdish movement, has also lost a lot of credit with its base.

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A strategic vote

“The 2015 city war is one of the main reasons for people’s anger against the Kurdish movement”, deciphers Vahap Coskun, professor of law at Dicle University, Diyarbakir. “Within the population, the idea is now anchored that the solution will not come from violence, he assures. And then, this war has been going on for forty years, and the population is exhausted. » The Turkish army had ended up defeating the forces of the PKK: the results of the fighting between July 2015 and March 2016 reported nearly 3,600 deaths on the side of the organization, 355 deaths on the side of the Turkish armed forces and nearly 300 civilians, according to the news site DW Turkce.

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