HDP's Diyarbakir candidates breathe eve of poll optimism

by John Hunt    


Ferda Fahrioglu is bubbling with enthusiasm about the Turkish election campaign. As the twelfth and last candidate on the HDP's parliamentary list for Diyarbakir, she can't be sure she'll get elected to parliament tomorrow. But, whatever happens, she thinks the campaign itself has been a victory.

"I'm so happy meeting the people in this campaign," she says. "For the last two years people have been scared to go out and express themselves because of the repression, but this campaign has given them more scope. So yes I'm glad that Erdogan called the election early". 

"There are 70 districts in Diyarbakir and I've visited all of them. I've been to the villages, visited people in their homes and at their work. People are more hopeful now and they're echoing the HDP campaign slogans saying, "We are here and you will win".

"A six-year-old girl came into our office asking for leaflets. She wanted to give them out to people on the streets. Young people are becoming so politicised because of what they have seen".

"I met one woman in a village run by village guards (pro-government militia). She told me, 'Last time I voted HDP and I left some money and a note at the ballot box saying: since you all sell your votes to the government, accept some money for my vote. My husband is a village guard and he was so angry that he said he was going to kill me but he didn't because I was pregnant' That woman is voting HDP again this time. Her story really affected me". 

"People are tired of war and violence and want normal lives. They remember the time of the peace process between 2013 and 2015 and are saying that if the state could talk to the Kurds then, it can do so again - if it wants to".

Ferda is one of the more than 2,000 'Academics for Peace' victimised for signing a petition calling for a halt to state violence against Kurds in Turkey's south-east. Last year she was sacked by statutory decree from her post as a research fellow at Istanbul's Yildiz Technical University.  

"I was born in Diyarbakir and was educated in the west of Turkey", she says. "It has been a wonderful experience for me coming away from that academic environment, back to Kurdistan and meeting ordinary people".

"The atmosphere has been brilliant. But people are worried about pressure from the authorities and fraud. Yesterday I saw a text message the AKP has sent to its supporters saying, 'This election is like jihad, do whatever you can'. We are worried about what will happen in some of the villages and of people being afraid to vote when they see the police. So we're asking everyone to stay outside the schools after they've voted to help monitor the process and to give others confidence".

Hisyar Ozsoy, another HDP candidate for Diyarbakir and formerly the MP for Bingol, says he's certain the party will cross the 10% threshold of national votes required for it to get any parliamentary seats. The only barrier is fraud which could happen both locally, especially in areas where the HDP and other opposition parties are weak, and at the national level. 

"We're expecting an explosion of votes in the west of Turkey", he says, explaining this will include tactical voting by CHP opposition party supporters who want the HDP to deprive Erdogan's AKP of its parliamentary majority. 

"This election is about the future of this country and of parliamentary institutions. We are facing a racist ultra-nationalist alliance that Erdogan has created with the MHP and elements of the deep state. It's the bad guys from the past and the bad guys from now and it's an issue of life and death for them because, if they lose, they lose everything".

"We will see what happens but I'm optimistic the HDP will get more votes than in November 2015". But what if the AKP manages to steal the election?  "Kurds were forced out of the parliament between 1994 and 2007 and the struggle went on", Hisyar replies. "We will have to work harder and our struggle will go on".