Turkey’s Kurdish HDP party says Ocalan’s call does not change strategy in Istanbul
ISTANBUL,— The Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said on Friday its strategy of supporting the opposition in the Istanbul mayoral election has not changed despite a last-minute call from Turkey’s jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan for it to be neutral.
The HDP co-leaders said in a written statement that Ocalan’s statement was in line with the HDP’s strategy until now, and that President Tayyip Erdogan was seeking to pit the HDP and Ocalan against each other in a “desperate” move.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported that the imprisoned Kurdish leader and the founder of Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, called on supporters of a pro-Kurdish political party to remain politically neutral ahead of a local election in Istanbul this weekend, suggesting they should abstain.
Turkey is holding a re-run of the mayoral election this Sunday, initially held on March 31st, following an appeal by President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party, which had long-controlled the city but lost the vote to the main opposition.
The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 79-million population.
A large Kurdish community in Turkey and worldwide openly sympathise with PKK rebels and jailed Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan, who founded the PKK group in 1974, and has a high symbolic value for most Kurds in Turkey and worldwide according to observers.
Ocalan was caught in February 1999 in Kenya and jailed several months later after he was found guilty of separatism.
Despite the almost complete isolation, Ocalan is still a key figure of the Kurdish insurgency and the movement generally in the region.