Turkey’s first-ever communist mayor of the eastern city of Tunceli visited opposition mayor of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) to congratulate him on his election win in June, Gazete Duvar reported on Thursday.
Mehmet Fatih Macoglu, the Turkish Communist Party of Tunceli, known in Kurdish as Dersim, together with 50 people from the Federation of Dersim Associations (DEDEF), paid a congratulatory visit to IBB Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu.
Imamoglu first hosted his guests at his IBB office in Sarachane, and later at the IBB Assembly Hall. The two mayors made speeches during the visit.
“We came here [IBB] with our friends as we see here as our own place where we could not come [visit] for 25 years. We did not know that such doors had existed [open to us],” said Tunceli’s mayor referring to the previous approach of mayors from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) towards Tuncelites.
Macoglu said four representatives in the IBB city council had previously migrated from Tunceli to Istanbul. He claimed that they were performing their jobs with a sense of belonging.
The Tunceli mayor added that hundreds of thousands of people had left Tunceli, with most of them, around 280,000 to 300,000 thousand, living currently in Istanbul.
“I can assure you that their [Tuncelites’] faces are towards the light and democracy. They have always acted within the boundaries of this understanding. The presence of Dersim people in Istanbul will provide you and us with great support in the future. They will serve [for Istanbul] on the way to the target,” Macoglu said.
Almost all opposition parties, including TKP, backed Imamoglu during the annulled March 31 Istanbul mayoral election and the election rerun on June 23.
“We will work very hard. We will consult you [Tuncelites]. We will, of course, share it with our friends who are here. We will consult the representatives [with roots in Tunceli] and walk on this road together. You will see that social mechanisms will be active while taking social decisions here,” said Imamoglu in response to Macoglu.
Imamoglu emphasized the importance of exemplary beginnings and practices for the country put in place in Tunceli during the mayoral tenure of Macoglu in Tunceli’s Ovacik district.
“You are the individuals of a city and a community that has struck a special attitude in that regard. I am talking about a community and a society with a strong pursuit,” said Imamoglu.
Macoglu served as Ovacik mayor before his latest posting, becoming a symbol of good governance for some in Turkey as he initiated unseen practices.
After taking office, Macoglu promised Ovacik residents transparency and accountability, publicly itemizing the local government’s income, expenditures, and surplus budget on the municipal building’s outer wall.
He also opened several libraries, made public transportation free, and reduced the cost of the water provided by the municipality.
Tunceli, an eastern city with a population consisting predominantly of Kurds and Alevis, is a city more commonly known to locals by its Kurdish name, Dersim. The province also has the same name.
Dersim was home to serious conflicts between the Turkish state and the locals during the early years of the Turkish Republic.
The province witnessed insurgencies by the local people against the state in the 1930s when the founder of the republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was alive and in force.
Some historians interpreted the Dersim insurgency as a resistance to the reforms such as promoting strong Turkish nationalism especially in Kurdish-majority areas, brought by Ataturk in the area, where people had lived under local administration for hundreds of years.
Ataturk ordered military operations in the region in 1937 and 1938 to quash the rebellion which led to mass killings of some 13,000 people, including children and women, according to official figures or some 40,000 according to US sources.