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Kılıçdaroğlu visits pro-Kurdish party in parliament for his presidential bid

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Turkey’s main opposition leader, the joint presidential candidate of an opposition bloc of six parties, met with officials from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in parliament on Monday to seek their support for his presidential bid, the Birgün daily reported.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, along with officials from his party, visited the HDP group in parliament and met with HDP co-Chairpersons Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar.

The meeting, which had been scheduled to take place on March 18 but had to be delayed upon a request from the HDP because party officials were busy with earthquake relief efforts in Turkey’s south, lasted for an hour.

Kılıçdaroğlu, who spoke to reporters following the meeting, said he is against the closure of the HDP and the appointment of trustees by the government to replace democratically elected HDP mayors on accusations that they have links to terrorism.

The HDP, the third largest party in the Turkish Parliament, currently faces a closure case filed against it in March 2021 due to its alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

Turkey’s Interior Ministry replaced dozens of HDP mayors in the country’s southeast with trustees following the local elections of 2019 on the grounds that they had links to the PKK.

The party denies any links to the terrorist organization and says it is working for the peaceful solution of Turkey’s decades-long 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 his remarks to the press, Kılıçdaroğlu also said parliament is the venue for the settlement of all the country’s problems including the Kurdish issue.

The HDP’s Buldan said the reason her party chose to receive Kılıçdaroğlu at parliament instead of party headquarters was to show that the democratic solution for the Kurdish issue can be achieved by the legislature.

Kılıçdaroğlu also voiced his objection to the reference to Kurdish as an “unknown language” in the parliamentary minutes and in the courts.

When some Kurdish lawmakers spoke in Kurdish in parliament where only Turkish is expected to be spoken, their statements went into parliament’s minutes as an “unknown language,” which drew harsh criticism because Turkey has for many years banned the use of Kurdish. The same reference is also used in the courts when people speak in Kurdish at hearings.

Throughout most of the 20th century, successive governments have imposed outright bans on or suppression of the Kurdish language in Turkey.

Kurds have been for years demanding access to education in their mother tongue.

According to Article 42 of the Turkish Constitution, ratified in 1982, two years after the military overthrew the government in a violent coup, “No language other than Turkish can be taught as a mother tongue to Turkish citizens.” Turkey has so far refrained from acceding to or fully complying with international treaties that guarantee the right to use mother tongues in education.

Following Kılıçdaroğlu’s nomination, there was discussion as to whether he would seek the support of the HDP, which is widely seen as the kingmaker in the presidential election on May 14 that could end the two-decade rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is seeking re-election.

Kılıçdaroğlu received appreciation for his visit to the party, which is excluded from the opposition bloc, known as the Nation Alliance, mainly due to the dislike of the nationalist İYİ (Good) Party of the HDP.

Many say Kılıçdaroğlu needs to maintain a fine balance in his dialogue with the HDP in order to avoid undermining support among nationalist voters hostile to its pro-Kurdish politics.

Yet İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener earlier said in a statement that she has no objections to Kılıçdaroğlu’s dialogue with the HDP but that the HDP can’t be part of the Nation Alliance and that no ministries can be given to the party in return for its support for Kılıçdaroğlu.

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