ISTANBUL – Thousands of Kurds have demonstrated in Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul, against the decision by the election board to exclude seven independent candidates from participating in the elections. On the central Taksim Square the flag of Kurdish separatist movement PKK and a portrait of PKK leader Ocalan were carried around. The police kept their distance for a long time, but took action when at the end stones and molotov cocktails were thrown.
The banned candidates, amongst whom the well known activist Leyla Zana, are excluded from participating in the elections because they were once convicted of crimes related to terrorism. The anger level among demonstrators was high. They claimed the Turkish government is not at all interested in resolving the conflict with the Kurds. There were also demonstrations in the south-east of Turkey.
”The “Kurdish opening”, a policy by which the government wanted to solve the Kurdish issue, was a huge lie. There is not even Kurdish education yet!”, said student Pinar Aydemir, who came to the demonstration with her grand mother. ”The government doesn’t want peace. The actions of the army against the PKK never stopped, even though the PKK respected a cease fire for months”, she said. ”We want peace, but we are ready for war.”
According to the protesters it was the first time the PKK flag and the Ocalan portrait were so prominently visible on Taksim Square. The PKK leader has been in prison since his arrest in 1999. The ones carrying the flag and portraits disguised themselves with huge shawls. For the rest, mainly yellow flags of pro-Kurdish party BDP were carried. The BDP supports independent candidates to get around the election threshold of 10 percent.
One of the banned politicians, parliamentarian Sebahat Tuncel, spoke to the crowd. ”Kurdistan is proud of you”, she told the demonstrators. ”The government can’t stop us, the election board can’t stop us, we started this struggle and we will continue to struggle.”
The BDP called on the government to postpone the elections with one month, so the party can register other candidates. De chance of that happening, seems small, in in that case the BDP considers to boycot the elections. Opposition party CHP called on the parliament to assemble in an emergency meeting to find a solution, for example to lower the threshold with an emergency procedure. The elections will be held on June 12.