A week ago, Kurds weren’t participating openly in the Gezi protests. They appeared to be holding back because they didn’t wish to jeopardize the PKK-AKP peace deal, which had reached a sensitive stage. They claim that a majority of their fighters have withdrawn from Turkey and returned to their bases in the mountains of Iraq, and that now the ball was in the Turkish government’s court, which they had asked to do the following: defang the anti-terror law and release Kurdish prisoners held under that law; reduce the 10% election threshold that keeps smaller parties from being elected; allow education in Kurdish. PM Erdogan met this week with his Council of Wise Men (which included some women), an advisory group of public intellectuals and artists who had been tasked with going to the far corners of the country and collecting an impression of the people’s will regarding the PKK peace process.
The Wise People reported and the prime minister promptly announced that the peace process was going forward but since only 10-15 percent of militants had withdrawn (the Kurdish party BDP countered, saying almost all had withdrawn), it was still early days, and in any case the 10% threshold was off the table, as was education in Kurdish. These are two of the main Kurdish demands in the peace agreement, along with a halt in building new security posts in the Kurdish region.
Meanwhile in the town of Lice in Diyarbakir province, several hundred Kurds protested the reconstruction of a security post (a gendarme station). The gendarmes shot at the protesters (with live bullets, not rubber ones) and killed a demonstrator, Medeni Yıldırım.
And in this way, the Gezi protesters, who include nationalists, leftists, Kemalists, and other middle-class people unhappy with the PKK peace deal, united with the Kurdish cause in an unexpected alliance against the misuse of power by the state. The Kurds called for big demonstrations around the country. They were joined by Gezi protesters, swelling their numbers. And today an LGBT (lesbian, gay, transexual, and bisexual) parade to Taksim Square reportedly attracted tens of thousands of protesters of all kinds, chanting Medeni Yıldırım’s name. Like a snowball rolling downhill, state violence and exasperation with the prime minister’s tone-deaf intransigence has managed to unite groups that in the past believed they had very little in common or were at odds with one another.