Abdullah Demirbaş, the former mayor of Turkey’s Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır’s (Amed) Sur district, who asked Pope Francis on Wednesday for prayers and support for a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish conflict, has shared with Medya News the details of his meeting in the Vatican.
Demirbaş, who now lives in exile, presented the Pope with a Kurdish book, carpet and a letter outlining the plight of the Kurdish people.
The book presented to the Pope was Mem and Zin (Mem û Zîn), a Kurdish classic love story written in 1692 that is considered to be one of the most important works of Kurdish literature.
“Mem û Zîn represents the love of unity among Kurds,” Demirbaş says, “that’s why I presented this book to the Pope. I told him that we Kurds have a language and identity, but our biggest problem is our unity and that Kurds are now working to unite.”
Stating that the prayers and support of the Pope, the leader of two billion Christians and the Vatican, are important for the solution of the Kurdish issue, Demirbaş said that at the end of the meeting, which lasted about 12 minutes and took place with a very positive atmosphere, the Pope said that he would gladly pray for the Kurdish people.
“The letter we gave him reads, ‘We are similar to Jesus. Just as Jesus was crucified, the Kurdish people were divided into four parts and you know this pain’,” Demirbaş said.
During the meeting, Demirbaş also drew attention to the attacks of the Islamic State (ISIS) against religious minorities, particularly the Yazidis, and praised the role of the Pope in promoting dialogue and tolerance.
Demirbaş is a prominent Kurdish politician from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), who served as mayor of Sur district for two terms in 2004 and 2009, but has been living in Europe since 2019 due to political trials against him, where he faces nearly 300 years in prison.
Demirbaş was dismissed from his position as mayor in 2007 due to his decision to introduce multilingual municipal services, and was later imprisoned in 2009. Demirbaş has been released from prison several times due to health problems, but is still on trial in many cases.
This is not the first time Demirbaş has visited the Pope. In 2014, he visited the Vatican with representatives from Armenian, Assyrian, Muslim, Yazidi and Alevi communities, and was invited to the Pope’s visit to the Greek Patriarch Bartholomew Bartholomew in 2015, where he met with the Vatican head of state. Demirbaş has been a vocal advocate for Kurdish rights and has sought to promote peace and understanding in the region.