Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Thursday visited the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakır, pledging to bring peace to the country at any cost by resolving the long-standing Kurdish issue, the Kronos news website reported.
“I know the troubles you have gone through. But I will absolutely bring peace to this country. I will bring tranquility. I will bring fraternity. Whatever the cost, this country needs peace, coexistence, embracing each other and reconciliation. I will do it. We will do it together,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in a speech delivered at a party event in the city, reiterating his will to solve the Kurdish issue.
The Kurdish issue, a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse, refers to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.
In late January Kılıçdaroğlu said real democracy can only be established in the country by settling the Kurdish issue. “If democracy is to be [really] established in this country … the way to do it is through Diyarbakır,” Kılıçdaroğlu had said, signaling new efforts to settle the country’s long-standing problem.
In a move that brought him appreciation, Kılıçdaroğlu also promised last November to acknowledge the injustices of the current and previous governments and to make amends for the suffering they caused various segments of society if his party comes to power in the 2023 elections.
Among the people and groups listed by Kılıçdaroğlu were those who had suffered from political persecution, including thousands of Kurds who were subjected to torture in Diyarbakır’s notorious Military Prison No 5 in the 1980s and ’90s.
Commenting on CHP politicians’ failure to visit the region frequently, Kılıçdaroğlu acknowledged that his party was at fault and signaled a change in party policy.
“If you want to attract their votes, you have to go visit those citizens and listen to their complaints,” he said.
The CHP leader also appealed to young voters, saying they have the power to change the fate of the country.
Kılıçdaroğlu pointed out that 6.3 million young people will cast votes for the first time and that it is up to these young people to change the fate of the country.
“You will be the true safeguards of democracy,” he said.
As part of his visit, Kılıçdaroğlu also met with Türkan Elçi, the widow of slain prominent human rights lawyer and former head of the Diyarbakır Bar Association Tahir Elçi; Nebahat Akkoç, the widow of Zübeyir Akkoç, who was murdered by unknown assailants; Zeynep Mızraklı, the wife of former Diyarbakır Mayor Selçuk Mızraklı, who was replaced by a trustee by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and was subsequently jailed; and Ayşe Çelik, a teacher who was imprisoned for calling for an end to Turkish military operations in southeastern Turkey during a TV program in 2016.