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German Kurds split over Turkey's election results

The left-leaning HDP made it into Turkey's parliament in Sunday's election. Not all Kurdish groups in Germany are happy about that, since some believe the HDP is lacking when it comes to fighting for key Kurdish issues.

The conservative AKP, the party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, lost the absolute majority in Sunday's parliamentary elections. Instead of the two-thirds majority some predicted -

or dreaded

- the AKP only received roughly 40 percent of the votes, even missing a majority of the seats. One big factor in the AKP losses is the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP). The left-wing party jumped the 10 percent hurdle for the first time, with roughly six million votes, or 13 percent.

But among the Kurdish population in Germany, there is some disagreement about how positive the election results really are. While less power for the AKP is generally considered a step in the right direction by German Kurdish associations, some worry the HDP won't actually change things for the better for Kurds in Turkey.

Pro-Kurdish in name only?

In Sunday's election, the HDP didn't only win Kurdish votes, but also convinced many Turks who were fed up with Erdogan. The president had cracked down on protesters, made life difficult for journalists who criticized him or his party's policies, and built himself a 1,000-room palace that many consider embarrassing.

Fevzi Aktas. (Photo: private)

Aktas: whether the HDP can fulfill Kurdish expectations remains to be seen

Among the HDP voters were many Kemalists, secularists who favor a strict separation of religion and state - the exact opposite of what Erdogan wants to achieve with most of his policies. With a boom in mosque building and a school system that is more and more strongly focused on Islam, the Kemalists fear a re-Islamization of society. With a left-leaning campaign, the HDP won them over.

"All alternative, left-wing forces, including left-leaning media, strongly supported the HDP because they hoped the party would take power away from Erdogan," Fevzi Aktas, director of Komkar, told DW. Komkar is the Berlin-based Association of Clubs from Kurdistan in Germany.

Aktas wasn't exactly ecstatic after the elections, because he believes the HDP, which has been called pro-Kurdish in Turkish and European media, supports his people's cause in name only.

"The HDP isn't a pro-Kurdish party, but a pro-Turkey party," Aktas said. "They want to 'Turkey-fy' the Kurds. Before the elections, they didn't make any promises to improve the Kurds' lives, not even introducing mother-tongue classes in school."

The issue of teaching in Kurdish in Turkish schools is a big one for the roughly 30 million Kurds living in Turkey - as is the fight for an autonomous Kurdish state, since Kurds are often discriminated against in Turkey. The idea of the state of Kurdistan is not supported by the HDP either, a disappointed Aktas said, because the Kemalists rejected the idea.

'Victory for democracy'

Mehmet Tanriverdi. (Photo: private)

Tanriverdi: things will change in Turkey

Mehmet Tanriverdi sees the new developments in Turkey more positively. "I'm happy about the election results," the deputy chairman of the Kurdish Community in Germany told DW. "It's a victory for Turkish democracy, even if there's still a long way to go. Erdogan's policy of Islamization was finally restricted."

Tanriverdi admits that the HDP didn't seem all that pro-Kurdish before the elections, but says that they probably wouldn't have garnered enough votes from Kemalists to tackle the 10-percent hurdle otherwise.

He hopes that the party will fight more strongly for Kurdish rights now that they have made it into parliament. After all, Tanriverdi added, the HDP does support more regional autonomy, which would mean more power for Kurdish regions as well.

German Kurds supported HDP

There are at least one million Kurds living in Germany. From what he could tell, many of them voted for the HDP, Aktas said. He suspects that their following a party that isn't explicitly fighting for Kurdish rights comes from the fact that the Kurds in Germany are removed from the struggles in Turkey.

"The Kurds here aren't very patriotic," according to Aktas, and thus not necessarily insistent on an autonomous Kurdistan. "They simply want to live peacefully side by side with Turks." He seemed a little disappointed when he says it.

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