Veteran Kurdish politician Ahmet Turk. Photo: Rudaw
Veteran Kurdish politician Ahmet Turk witnessed the ups and downs that is the Kurdish condition in Turkey. He has been in and out of jail, elected by the people and booted out by the authorities. In his seventies, he is again running for office and optimistic that he will succeed.
Turk was elected mayor of Mardin six times since the 1970s.
He spent three years in prison after the 1980 coup.
He was leader of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) until it was banned in 2009 for alleged connections to the PKK.
He was elected co-mayor of Mardin again in 2014, but was removed from the position in November 2016 and replaced by a nationalist. He was subsequently arrested on charges of spreading PKK propaganda and released nearly three months later, in February 2017.
Turk has now thrown his hat into the ring again and is running for mayor of Mardin in the regional elections expected to be held in March 2019.
He recently sat down to chat with Mahdi Mutlu in Mardin.
Rudaw: Why are you running as the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)’s candidate for mayor of Mardin again?
Nowadays, Kurdish authorities have a heavy responsibility on their shoulders. We know that previous elected mayors have been removed and replaced by nationalists. This was a conquest of the will of voters. In the coming election, we want to show
We cannot advance the cause of democracy if we sit idle
the will of the Kurds to all parties again.
In November 2016, you were removed from your position as mayor of Mardin and replaced by a nationalist. You were later arrested. How did you feel when you were replaced by a nationalist?
The question is how the nation feels about this. The will of the people was conquered and they respond to this. They have turned the municipality of Mardin and all the other municipalities into military barracks. People cannot even approach the building of the municipality. They have fenced off the building and deployed guards around it.
We cannot advance the cause of democracy if we sit idle. Nowadays, an oppressive policy is practiced against Kurdistan, and this harms the entire Turkish nation. The absence of democracy affects Kurds and Turkey as a whole.
How do the people of Mardin see these nationalists?
We will know this on March 31. It is not politically correct to say anything about this now.
Nationalists say the services they have delivered – building roads, houses, bridges and parks – are unparalleled in the history of Turkey. What do you think of this?
This is not true. The nation can see these services. They spend $20 on doing something, even if the thing can be done for $10.
Ninety-four of the 102 municipalities in the country are run by nationalists. It’s claimed they have done most of their projects using loans. This will leave a massive debt for you to pay back. Will this cause problems for you?
This is true. They say they have given these projects to UN organizations. They have not paid anything for these projects. They do all these projects on loans. This poses a great difficulty for us as a municipality. There was 94 million lira ($17.9 million) in the municipal
We will try to deliver more services
safe the day I was removed from office. The safe is empty now. I will investigate this matter after I become mayor. We had allocated the 94 million lira for projects. We will reveal everything to the public after we retake the municipality – we will reveal what they have done and the extent of failure of their work.
How will you campaign in the election while most of the campaign managers are currently in jail?
We will run the campaign in cooperation with our colleagues. If the pressure and arrests made against HDP were made against AKP members, the AKP would now have lost its fan-base on the ground.
What will you promise your voters in this election?
We will try to deliver more services. But we shouldn’t forget the situation we are currently in. We will encounter many complications and obstacles if our democratic endeavors are prevented.
Do you think the stance of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on the Kurdish question will change after
the mayoral elections as long as the AKP has signed a pact with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP)?
Renewal, new policies, or change cannot be made quickly in a country like Turkey
Renewal, new policies, or change cannot be made quickly in a country like Turkey. This is how the morality of its politics is. These policies cannot continue forever. Changes will happen, but they will not be made by them. We have no hope nor do we believe in the current authority to bring about new democratic changes to resolve the Kurdish cause.
There were rumors you would run for mayor of Diyarbakir, but chose to run for Mardin. What does Mardin mean to you?
Mardin is my city where I was mayor but replaced by a nationalist. I don’t think it is appropriate to abandon Mardin for Diyarbakir. I am aware the people of Diyarbakir wanted me to run for mayor, but I believe you should start from where you were stopped. This is the essence of politics. Mardin is a multicultural city and should make it even more multicultural.
You won 180,000 votes in the last election. Kurds, Arabs and Assyrians voted for you. Do you think these communities will vote for you again?
I believe we will win more votes than we did in the previous election.