Social media responses to Barzani and Erdogan’s gathering


The President of Southern Kurdistan visited Turkey’s Kurdish-dominated southeast for the first time in nearly two decades, and gave a speech alongside Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on prolonging the peace settlement.

As a way of celebrating Kurdish culture and music, Şivan Perwer was invited to sing at the gathering in Kurdish, alongside Ibrahim Tatlisis. Perwer fled Turkey in 1976 because he was threatened, and Turkish authorities were demanding his arrest at the time for singing in Kurdish. His presence was symbolic of recognising Kurdish cultural differences, and music, which for decades was banned in Turkey.

President Barzani’s speech was concise, although he did not speak about the struggle of Kurdish people under the Assad regime, or the political situation of Kurds within Turkey. He said;

My request from my Kurdish and Turkish brothers is to support the peace process […] The time in the middle east for living together has come […] We can carry our people to happier days if we follow the methods of living together. Wars have been tried. The days when the blood of a young Turkish man was spilled by a Kurdish youth or the blood of a young Kurdish man was spilled by a Turkish youth are over.

His speech ended with a few words in Turkish: “Long live Turkish and Kurdish brotherhood. Long live peace. Long live freedom”.

Erdoğan spoke after Barzani, and called on the people of Diyabakir to fully support the peace process, “I want Diyarbakır […] to get united against threats and sabotages” and say “enough is enough”. He also pointed out that if the peace settlement is supported, Turkey will potentially see Kurdish prisoners being released.

However, the event was not welcomed by everyone and social networking sites were buzzing with criticism about the gathering. Some accused the Turkish Prime Minister of using the Kurdish President to gain support for the run-up to municipal elections next march, where his party will compete alongside the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Kurdish populated areas.

Others were keen to point out that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had their own interests in mind, which ran deeper than local politics. For example, both the KRG and Turkey rejected the unilateral declaration of self-rule and autonomy by Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, accusing the rebel group of working alongside the Assad regime.

Thousands of people gathered in front of the BDP building in Diyarbakir to protest the arrival of the Turkish Prime Minister, according to a local news agency.

Joyar Gol pointed out, “There is no sign of the crowds of tens of thousands we normally see in the BDP rallies in Diyarbakir […] BDP mayor of Diyarbakir and MPs welcome President Barzani, but it seems to me, it is more like a silent boycott”.

Online responses to the gathering highlighted heightened sense of frustration with the lack of support for Kurdish politicians in Northern Kurdistan, while others perceived the event as one of ‘progress’ and a time of political change in Turkey.

Many were keen to point out problems within Southern Kurdistan, which have not been tackled efficiently, and questioned the motives of the visit by President Barzani.

However, not everyone perceived the event as negative, and saw potential long-term positivity in it because of the political sphere in Turkey is radically shifting. Although many promises have been made by Erdogan and not delivered, the return of the “Kurdish question” as a central debate topic within Turkish politics is sufficient to conclude that change will come to the region, and it will include the rights that Kurdish people rightly deserve.

However, the thousands of Kurdish political prisoners remain imprisoned, despite many of the cases having a weak basis, and the criminalisation of Kurdish activism is one that poses a serious threat to any successful peace-process.

One thing is for sure, the event has generated a discussion about the future of Kurdish people, and the Kurdish question in Turkey on an international level. The role of Kurdistan Regional Government will be scrutinised in the coming years, and how they tread their path will determine the level of support KRG can enjoy among its brethren in others parts of Kurdistan.