ISTANBUL: Thousands of people yesterday turned out for a mass rally in support of the Kurdish candidate in Turkey’s presidential elections, in a rare large-scale show of Kurdish nationalism in the centre of Istanbul.
Some 10,000 people rallied by the shores of the Bosphorus in Kadikoy, the main hub of the Asian side of Istanbul, for the address by Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtas.
Many waved flags with the face of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that waged a deadly insurgency against the Turkish authorities in southeast Turkey for years.
Others waved banners with Demirtas’ main slogan for the August 10 polls: “For democratic change, for peace”.
“For years, they have tried to make enemies out of us so that we don’t stand side by side,” Demirtas told the cheering crowds.
“The presidency will provide an opportunity to create a wind of change so all the oppressed can stand together.”
Demirtas is expected to trail in third place in the polls, behind Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the premier’s main rival Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu.
But Demirtas’ levels of support could be crucial in determining if the poll goes to a second round run-off on August 24.
“Demirtas has shown that the Kurdish struggle can become something much bigger than a minority group’s right for recognition and be exemplary for democracy in Turkey,” said Figen Dursun, a 45-year-old Kurdish woman.