The residents of Istanbul are getting ready to vote again next Sunday. Turks are divided, making Kurds the most critical voting block in the history of Turkish elections.
The city supports 15 million souls, 3 million of whom hail from Kurdistan. The Kurds hold the deciding vote, noted Ertugrul Kurkcu in a Father’s Day tweet.
Ekrem Imamoglu is the candidate Nation Alliance supported by the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Binali Yildirim is the candidate of People’s Alliance supported by the center-right Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Both candidates, regrettably, have aligned themselves with prominent Turkish supremacists making it impossible for the pro-Kurdish, Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) to align with either of them.
Last March—when the people of Istanbul went to the polls for the first time, our Kurds held their noses and voted overwhelmingly for the lesser of the two evils: CHP’s Imamoglu.
He won, but lasted only 18 days. Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council (YSK), on the promptings of President Erdogan, invalidated the vote-count and called for a repeat election on June 23.
This time, unless something dramatic happens between now and the Election Day, our Kurds will again vote for the CHP ticket.
The support of Kurds for the CHP ticket is tactical and both sides know it. Ataturk is the founder their party and he is also the author of banning a living language, Kurdish.
AKP, now led by President Erdogan, has simply taken over the task and uses religion too to make every living Kurd a Turk.
And yet, both candidates are courting Kurds, regaling us with their tales of utmost respect and affection and competing for our votes as Yildirim did when he visited Amed/Diyarbakir, the unofficial capital of Kurdistan, earlier this month.
While addressing the assembled crowd, he managed to utter six Kurdish words with a smirk—as if he could not believe himself— and then added a seventh one, calling our homeland by its proper name: Kurdistan.
It went over like a fart in a mosque.
Imagine telling a German that Germany is her homeland, or an Italian, Italy is his country!
Someone should have whispered into Yildirim’s ear: Kurds know they are from Kurdistan; it is Turks who are in denial about the Kurdish homeland—despite their closeness to it!
Adding insult to injury, Yildirim’s backer, Devlet Bahceli, the ugly face of Turkish supremacists, the head of virulently anti-Kurdish parliamentary faction, Nationalist Action Party (MHP), snarled:
“There is no Kurdistan and Pontus in Turkey. They will never be part of our country. Those who aspire to bring them into existence will find our Nationalist-Idealist youth firmly blocking them.”
The region known as Pontus, like the region known as Kurdistan, predates the arrival of Turks into Anatolia, and both areas held on to their distinctive identities till the crumbling days of the Ottoman Empire.
But they vanished from the maps of Turkey after Ataturk’s declaration that “Turkey belonged to the Turks.”
Pontus, like Kurdistan, has now become a hot election topic because Ekrem Imamoglu happens to be from that region. When he won the election, a Greek newspaper innocently noted that he hails from the Pontus region of Turkey.
No one noticed it for a while—since Turks don’t have a habit of investing in the languages of their immediate neighbors.
But when the election was contested, someone notified the staff of AKP, and Imamoglu, to his chagrin, got a new nickname, “The Greek who won Istanbul.”
The ominous epithet (in the Turkish context) went through various mutations until it became, “The Greek who aspires to take Istanbul from the Turks!”
President Erdogan, who had kept quiet on this regurgitated vomit, chimed in May 29, the 566th anniversary of Istanbul’s conquest by Turks:
“This is Istanbul. It is also known as Islambol [meaning, it is rich in Muslims]. This is not Constantinople, but some would like to turn it into one. We have 22 days left to prove them wrong.”
Istanbul is definitely rich in Muslims now. But under its former name of Constantinople, it was rich in Christians—so rich, in fact, that the city supported the largest church of its time in the Christian world, Saint Sophia, now a museum.
The taking of Istanbul was not a pleasant tale of conquest, as Turks remember it today. In fact, it was no different than the way they were chased out of the Balkans, North Africa and the Middle East, which they can’t seem to forget, and constantly moan about.
If Turks would really like to appreciate what they did to their subjects 500 years ago, or today, or what their subjects did to them 400 years later, or now, they could perhaps read or watch Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.
The tale was meant to instill obedience to the oracles of the Greek gods.
But when King Laius takes liberties with the expressed wishes of one particular oracle, his son, Oedipus—raised by another family, unwittingly murders his father, marries his mother and fathers four children by her.
As gods would have it, he is then confronted with the enormity of his crimes.
Sophocles has Oedipus gouge out his eyes rather than face the world with a guilty conscience.
What would Sophocles have the Turks do today, given how Kurds have agonized under the authoritarian system of the Turks for 95 years?
What if every Turk who is not bothered by what their government is doing to the Kurds were turned into stone-deaf mutes for a generation, about 25 years!
Will life give us a chance to imitate art as Oscar Wilde thought it would? Will Kurds be magnanimous towards Turks when they get the upper hand?
Or perhaps Turks and Kurds can learn a thing or two from the French and the Germans and opt for peace between their peoples as the latter have done between their countries.
The alternative is war and what Emilio Aguinaldo told Filipinos in 1899 can be repeated verbatim for the Kurds today in 2019:
“I know that war has always produced great losses. But I also know by experience how bitter is slavery.”
Let’s hope freedom will find its footing in Kurdistan soon.
Kani Xulam @AKINinfo
This op-ed first appeared on the website of counterpunch.org