While two protagonists of the film sit side by side in a dimly-lit nightclub, a poignant Kurdish folk song from a spectacular female voice surrounded the atmosphere: Hêjîra çiyayî Lêlêlê lêlê…”

The woman begins to cry, and the old man asks, “Do you know Kurdish?”

  • No.
  • Then, why are you crying?
  • Brother, do you have to know Kurdish to cry to this song?

The scene quoted from the Turkish drama “Lovelorn” (Gönül Yarası, 2005) covers the codes of modern Turkish society in a very striking and naïve way. Entire world in one sentence: “Do you have to know Kurdish to cry in this song?” In one form or another, all segments of Turkish society suffer from the wounds in their hearts, but the healing is still hidden in the wisdom of the lands and foresight of the people. Either this or that way; somebody gives us a hand, soothes the worries, holds our hands, sings a folk song or teaches us to forgive. There is always someone binding our wounds out there. You have to have faith in the rich inheritance of these fruitful lands of Anatolia. You should never give up writing on the tales of hope it has been created over the centuries.

Everybody is wounded, including the Kurds

Like all opposition groups, in the local election campaigns, Kurdish voters were severely traumatized and targeted with impunity. Although the President and seniors of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) frequently reiterated that they were addressing the pro – Kurdish party, the HDP (People’s Democratic Party), calling them “terrorists and traitor” not the people; the opposition groups, including the Kurds, felt that they were definitely being targeted. Specifically, following HDP’s announcement that it would not nominate mayoral candidates in the municipal elections in seven major municipalities, including Istanbul, Ankara and lzmir, and that it would vote in favor of candidates running against the People’s Alliance (AKP+MHP), the tough talks multiplied by representatives of the ruling party AKP and its partner – MHP. As a note, in June 2018 general elections the pro-Kurdish party HDP achieved 11.7% of overall votes, and more importantly they had 12.7% in Istanbul, 6.4% in Ankara, 11.5% in Izmir, 16.9% in Mersin, 7.3% in Antalya and 13.5% in Adana.

Unspoken words of the voters; the results

The pro – Kurdish HDP (People’s Democratic Party), which President Erdogan demonized as “terrorist” and “traitor” during the campaigning period, proved to be the main political actor in the region, winning municipalities in eight provinces in eastern and southeastern Turkey. (Kars, Iğdır, Van, Hakkari, Siirt, Mardin, Batman, Diyarbakır) This can also be interpreted as a refusal of Kurdish voters to the trustees appointed to those provinces by AKP (Justice and Development Party). There are two major provinces to be commented on in the region: Şırnak and Tunceli (Dersim).

Şırnak was a pro – Kurdish party stronghold in previous elections; in general elections in 2018 it were 71.8 percent for HDP, in general elections of 2015 it were 85.5 percent for HDP, whereas, according to preliminary results of local elections in 2019, it was 60 percent for AKP for provincial mayorship. The districts are still strongholds of HDP. The apparent reason seems to be the migration of people to other cities after the events of 2015 and 2016, and there is currently a large population of security forces and public servants registered as voters in the provincial center.

For Tunceli province, there had been a strong debate between the popular candidate of TKP (Turkish Communist Party) and pro-Kurdish party. Fatih Maçoğlu, who had served as mayor of Tunceli district Ovacık when announced by TKP as Tunceli’s candidate, is a very popular figure because of his amazing service as mayor in Ovacık. The pro – Kurdish party HDP did not step back and announced its own candidate, but the candidate of TKP took over from HDP in Tunceli the provincial mayor’s office.

The pro – Kurdish party’s primary role, however, was its “undermining the People’s Alliance’s votes in the West” strategy; meaning calling on its supporters to vote for opposition candidates in Western cities where there are quite large number of Kurdish voters; i.e. Istanbul, Adana, Mersin, Antalya. To remind; HDP had 11.7% of the votes in June 2018 general elections, but more importantly they had 12.7% in Istanbul, 6.4% in Ankara, 11.5% in Izmir, 16.9% in Mersin, 7.3% in Antalya and 13.5% in Adana. The strategy worked perfectly well for them, according to preliminary local election results, as all these metropolitans, excluding CHP’s stronghold Izmir, moved to opposition candidates. (Istanbul’s results were still unclear due to complaints filed to the election board as this piece was penned)

But what motivated Kurdish voters to vote for opposition candidates of Nation’s Alliance (CHP+IYI Party)? In particular, how have they absorbed the IYI Party’s Turkish nationalist narrative?

A Kurdish voice behind bars

The question has, in fact, one simple and short answer: Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed former leader of the pro – Kurdish HDP party, sent a message from the prison day before the election, calling on his supporters to vote for the opposition through the interview with Yeni Yaşam Newspaper, saying “Bear your cross if necessary, but go to the polls and cast your vote, which means ‘no to fascism ‘. The results of the election can provide an opportunity for the development of democracy and peace.”

He also called for voting from his personal Twitter account, and asked supporters of the party to follow the strategy put forward by HDP Co – Chairs. “Hello everyone. I know you got angry, you cried out against them at times. And you are right. But now, we are in a situation beyond these. Polls are going to be set up on Sunday. When you are going to the polls, please don’t take superficial daily political debates with you. Leave them behind. The past is not totally unimportant. We should never forget the past, what we saw and lived. But the future is more important. For a better future, I call all our voters to support the HDP’s election strategy. You are the direct determiners of this election. We have a historical opportunity at our doorstep to show our determining effect not only in the cities which we will take back from the trustees but everywhere. The strategic votes we will cast in the cities where we did not nominate a candidate will be the indicators of our power. By casting your votes for the candidate whom our party points out in the places where HDP did not nominate candidates, you will determine the results of the elections. Young friends, especially the ones who will vote for the first time, I am addressing at you. Never ever think, ‘What will my vote change?’. Please go to the polls and cast your votes. I trust you. My valuable citizens, maybe I will be with you at the night of the election, but I will be looking at the same screen in my cell in Edirne. To see your votes which will make all of us happy on the results, greetings and sincere regards.”  Demirtaş tweeted on March 29, 2019. (Quote from Bianet English)

Are our wounds healable?

While Demirtaş is behind bars, he can certainly galvanize his supporters, which can certainly be used to help bring peace to the country. As experienced during the 2015 general election campaign, his character, style, and approach appeals to many people, especially the voters of the younger generation. He spoke of the brotherhood of Turkish Republic people and built his campaign on this motto, being brothers; brothers who heal the wounds of each other. Demirtaş can be named as one of Turkey’s assets, perhaps one of Anatolia’s healers.

It would be naïve to assume that one leader or just one person can give our wounds all the remedies, it’s definitely much more than that. The Kurdish question has multi – dimensions, like a multi – parameter problem with a very complicated ground that includes economics, international relations, cultural ties, and military. And there’s a terrorist organization called PKK and a nearly 40-year – long struggle against them. Not only the PKK terrorist organization, but also its organic and inorganic ties within the region, and the pro – Kurdish party should be seriously considered while mapping for peace.

The real solution for the people, however, lies within the depths of Anatolian culture and the will and tolerance of its people. Hope never ends; it hides but survives in these lands. As I said earlier, all segments of Turkish society may suffer from the wounds in their hearts, but the healing remains hidden in the wisdom of the Anatolian lands and the foresight of their people. A lovelorn may also recall the love that has existed in our hearts before.

Anyway, “Do you have to know Kurdish to cry to this song?