Anger, frustration among Kurds in southeast of Turkey to shape key vote

Anger, frustration among Kurds in southeast of Turkey to shape key vote
Supporters of pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) hold "No" placards in Turkish and Kurdish during a campaign meeting for the April 16 constitutional referendum, in Diyarbakir, Turkey, March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Sertac Kayar
2 months ago

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DIYARBAKIR — Thronged with people running everyday errands, the main streets of Diyarbakir show few signs of the devastation wrought by months of deadly clashes last year between Kurdish fighters and security forces.

But nearby in Sur, the ancient district that saw some of the worst fighting, the narrow alleys still simmer with anger. Many residents blame both the state and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for the latest violence.

How voters in Sur and across the largely Kurdish southeast view the three-decade conflict will be critical to the outcome of an April referendum that would give President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers.

Pollsters say that undecided Kurds, while just 4 percent of the electorate, could help tip the balance in what is likely to be a tight race.

A 2-1/2 year ceasefire between the government and the PKK broke down in July 2015, pitching the southeast into the worst violence in decades. About 2,000 people were killed and up to a half a million were displaced during the months of security operations that followed, the United Nations has estimated.

Tens of thousands were displaced in Sur, where tanks battered its warren of medieval streets to root out militants who dug trenches and laid explosives. The district is at the heart of Diyarbakir, the southeast's biggest city seen by many of the 15 million Kurds in Turkey as their cultural capital.

In Sur, curfews have been largely lifted but areas remain under police lockdown. The government has said it will invest in redeveloping the southeast, but scars are everywhere.

In Cizre, a largely Kurdish town bordering Syria, buildings are badly damaged by bullet holes and windows shattered.