New Kurdish Islamic Party formed to rival AKP in southeast Turkey
By Guneri Civaoglu. Turkish Milliyet – Translated by: Al Monitor – 15.12.2012 – A new political party, Huda-Par, is coming to southeast Turkey to trim the votes of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). The name of the new party can be translated as “Intention” or “On God’s Path.”
The founders of the party hail from the banned NGO Mustazaf Der, which was a base of support for the Turkish Hezbollah. After Mustazaf Der was shut down, [its members] contemplated the idea of setting up a political party. They were first encouraged to do so by Khaled Meshaal of Hamas while he was based in Syria.
The new party can be branded as an “Islamic-oriented Kurdish party.” Party founders did some serious research before going public, studying Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt as their models. They also spoke to these respective group’s leaders.
The banned Mustazaf Der was effective and widespread in the region. After the Danish cartoon affair they organized a “Respect to the Prophet” mass gathering that attracted a phenomenal crowd. Embassies in Ankara asked the Turkish government how the group could attract so many people.
It is understood that Huda-Par will pursue a policy of religious unity instead of ethnicity. Some AKP votes are expected to shift to the new party, as will some from the BDP. This new party Kurdish party, which is based on religion instead of violent struggle, is now working to organize itself to participate in the next elections. Kurdish citizens who don’t march in the streets but who nevertheless vote for the BDP may well shift to Huda-Par. Late Turkish President Turgut Ozal once said: “Sadly, we have not succeeded in becoming a nation state. To preserve the unity of Turkey, religious brotherhood and the unifying features of Islamism are crucial for our [Kurdish] policy.”
Until now, the AKP got the most votes in the Southeast region because its policies matched Ozal’s words. But fault lines are emerging. For example, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is now organizing alternative Friday prayers in an effort to enlist mosque congregations who share its ideology. But Huda-Par’s establishment is a more serious and effective approach to this population base. Both the AKP and the BDP will have problems.
Here some paragraphs from an interesting article in the daily Taraf by Kurtulus Tayiz:
“By emphasizing the lack of a solution to the Kurdish issue the new party will be going after the religious vote by making good use of Islamic sensibilities. I am curious what the new party will look like. Will it be like Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood?
“I can’t find a place for Huda-Par among these models. I don’t think the comparisons of Fatah-Hamas or PKK-Turkish Hezbollah are realistic. They are certainly more inclined to the Muslim Brotherhood, whose popularity grew with the Arab Spring. Huda-Par could turn out to be an ethnic-based, civilian Islamic party. The social and cultural fabric of the Southeast is conducive to the development of such a political movement.
“When we consider the influence of the PKK in the region, rivalry between Huda-Par and the Kurdish movement is inevitable. Even if the PKK says it could be flexible enough to enter into an alliance with Turkish Hizbullah, knowing their old animosities this will be very difficult. “These two groups will compete head on. The PKK will not easily allow an Islamic party to freely organize, develop and spread in the Southeast; it will do everything to impede its work. If not now, then soon the Kurdish movement will unsheathe its swords against Huda-Par. “As much as the BDP, the AKP too will lose votes in the Southeast. If the AKP as a ruling party cannot produce a solution to the Kurdish issue, religious votes may well shift to the new party instead of the BDP. We can predict that Huda-Par worries the BDP more than it does the AKP.”
The AKP has to be creative enough to come up with new, appealing and unifying policies. Wait a minute. Why isn’t the main opposition [Republican People’s Party] in this new equation?
Translated by al-monitor.com from Milliyet (Turkey).