Leyla Imret speaks at a political rally in Kurdish areas of Turkey. Photo: Dil Leyla trailer
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The story of a Kurdish woman born in Turkey who immigrated to Germany and then returned to her homeland as a politician only to be arrested has been made into a documentary.
“I know it is difficult to be in Kurdish politics in Turkey,” Leyla Imret says in the film that is now being shown in cinemas across Germany. “That I can always be summoned on a warrant. You can be shot as a politician here.”
Asli Ozarslan’s film, titled ‘Dil Leyla’ — a reference in Kurdish to being her father’s heart — tells the story of the then 27-year-old Kurdish woman who returned to her hometown of Cizre in southeastern Turkey in spring 2014.
“Actually, I just wanted to run for town council,” the subject of the film, Imret told the German Press Agency (DPA). “But then I just said: I will run for mayor.”
Imret returned to her Kurdish home city and joined the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). She and Kadir Konur ran as co-candidates for mayor, winning 83 percent of the vote.
Imret and Konur were removed from office on charges of support and propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — charges that led to dozens of pro-Kurdish mayors and administrators being replaced by appointed trustees.
After being arrested multiple times, the film’s trailer ends with Leyla crying in a court facing a prison sentence of up to 40 years.
She immigrated to Germany in 1996 after the death of her father, who Leyla has told Voice of America was killed by Turkish security forces during PKK and Turkish security forces’ clashes.
Imret recalled to VOA that, when she was a child, her father would tell her mother the girl “should study in Europe and come back here and serve her own people.”
"Twenty-five years ago, he uttered these words and they all came true," Imret says. "My father became a martyr and we had to leave Cizre and I ended up in Germany, none of which I ever imagined could happen.”
Turkey and the PKK have been locked in a three-decade conflict in which some 40,000 people have been killed. The conflict re-ignited in late July 2015 after peace talks stalled.