Tired of gun battles, some Turkish Kurds hope ruling party victory brings peace

Tired of having trenches in the streets and daily gun battles, shopkeeper Berzani AkDogan is hoping the return of single-party rule might bring stability to Turkeyand’s Southeast, even though a heavier military crackdown looks likely in the short term.
AkDogan, whose toy store in the regionand’s biggest city, Diyarbakir, has repeatedly been shuttered by violence, turned his back on the pro-Kurdish opposition in Sundayand’s general election, voting instead for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), despite a campaign built on pledges to maintain a hardline against the terrorist Kurdistan Workersand’ Party (PKK) militants.
His choice and that of other conservative Kurds like him — a minority in the mostly left-leaning Kurdish Southeast — helped the Islamist-rooted AK Party to a stunning comeback, winning back a parliamentary majority that it lost just five months earlier.
The ruling partyand’s founder, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, vowed on Wednesday to andquotliquidateandquot the PKK terrorists in a defiant speech that gave no quarter to those hoping for conciliation. The PKK responded on Thursday by calling off a unilateral cease-fire it had declared in the run-up to the election.
The left-leaning pro-Kurdish Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP)ontrols most of the Southeast. But for more conservative Kurds, Erdogan and the AK Party represent the best hope of a political solution to an insurgency that has left the restive region a relative economic backwater compared to much of the country.
andquotWhy did I vote AK Party? Because I need peace more than I need water or bread,andquot said AkDogan, 43.
andquotIand’ve been a shopkeeper here for the past 30 years and this is the first time Iand’ve seen this place so bad. For a month, our shops were closed almost the whole time. Even when they were open, there were no customers,andquot he said.
The escalating bloodshed, police curfews and civilian deaths antagonized many Kurds against Erdogan. Although he launched negotiations with the PKK three years ago and gave Kurds more cultural rights, some Kurds saw those moves simply as a bid to curry support among the 20-million Kurdish community, and the crackdown of recent months as revealing his true face.
Erdoganand’s aides say that while they have run out of patience with the PKKand’s armed struggle, demanding it lay down weapons before any return to the negotiating table, they are still committed to a political solution to an insurgency that has cost 40,000 lives over the past three decades, most of them Kurdish.
Opponents accuse him of deliberately stoking violence in the Southeast in the run-up to Sundayand’s vote in a bid to win back nationalist support. But the surge in unrest also pushed Islamist Kurds, sympathetic to the AK Partyand’s ideals and its economic policies, back toward the ruling party.
At Turkeyand’s first parliamentary election this year in June, the HDP took almost 80 percent of the vote in Diyarbakir and the AK Party just 14 percent, a drop in support that helped it lose its majority for the first time since it was founded more than a decade ago.
On Sunday, support for the AK Party rose to around 22 percent in the city, helping push it comfortably back over the threshold needed to govern alone. Its gains were driven in part by fear of the economic consequences if calm could not be restored.
h2 Stabilityh2 Seyhmus andcavui, 48, who owns a womenand’s clothing store, said Sundayand’s outcome was the right one despite his being an HDP supporter, with the pro-Kurdish party winning enough seats to be represented in Parliament but the AK Party in overall control.
andquotBusiness has been awful this summer. People are scared. Scared to leave the house, scared to com. Theyand’re scared of getting caught in the middle of an attack, that some bomb will explode,andquot he said.
andquotI wanted the HDP in Parliament, but I also believe the AK Party will give us back the stability we urgently need.andquot
The HDP, which entered Parliament as a party for the first time in June, won 59 of 550 seats on Sunday, putting it in a position to try to hold the government accountable for developments in the Southeast, even if Erdogan has said it is no longer a credible mediator.
andquotParliament needs to bring the peace process onto its agenda. We want an atmosphere in which all guns are silenced,andquot HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtai said on Thursday.
But one of the biggest challenges is the role of a new generation of guerrillas, the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), a wing of the PKK which has brought the fight from the mountains increasingly to the towns and cities.
A crackdown on the YDG-H in September in Cizre, a town near the Syrian border, caused outrage among pro-Kurdish lawmakers who said 21 civilians were killed during a wtAtilla Sertel, the former head of the izmir Journalistsand’ Association (iGC) and currently a deputy representing the Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP), told Todayand’s Zaman that it is unlawful to seize media outlets and fire journalists whose only concern is to be able to perform their jobs freely. andquotI know that the people who think they have won a victory today and impose pressure and tyranny on society and deceive it will have to account for their actions one day. Turkey used to be one of the most backward countries in the world with regard to freedom of the press and it is keeping its position,andquot he said.
Earlier this year, the Washington-based rights watchdog Freedom House ranked Turkey among andquotNot Freeandquot countries in its latest press freedom report, noting that Turkeyand’s media environment has and”deteriorated further as the government moved more aggressively to close the space for dissent through new legal measures and intimidation.and”
h2 Bugandun reporters give statement at Pak Media-iih2 Some of journalists who have been fired from Bugandun held a joint news conference with ismail Topandcuoilu, the head of the Pak Media Work (Pak Medya-ii) union, at its headquarters in Istanbul on Thursday.
Former Bugandun reporter Hasan Bozkurt said that since he was fired, he has received a large number of messages and phone calls from colleagues — including some in the pro-government media — who expressed their sadness over the firing of journalists at the ipek Media Group and said they were ready to share their salaries with the dismissed journalists. Bozkurt mentioned his gratitude for everyone who has shown solidarity with them.
Topandcuoilu said that it is unlawful for a trustee to interfere in the work of an editor-in-chief of a newspaper because Article 30 of the Turkish Constitution says that no one has the right to interfere in the publications of news outlets even if they have been involved in crime.
He also said that the trustees appointed to the ipek Media Group are acting not in accordance with the law but based on instructions they receive from the government. In an act of solidarity with the dismissed journalists, Topandcuoilu said his union would open a bank account for the journalists because many people had called to ask how they can help them with financial support.
The Handurriyet daily reported on Thursday that andumit andOnal, one of the trustees appointed to the ipek Media Group, had claimed that the trustees had no intention of firing any journalists from the group but had had to do so because some journalists were involved in actions that reduce the brand credibility and prestige of the outlets and thereby harmed the work of other employees.


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