Cemil Taşkesen, a shopkeeper in Siirt (Sêrt) province in Turkey was detained after his shop was visited by opposition party leader Meral Akşener, and he told her, with implied criticism, that the language, the identity, and the reality of Kurdistan were being denied by the Turkish parliament.
The Police Department of Siirt reported on 29 October that a criminal investigation had been launched into Taşkesen’s remarks to Akşener that: “Our language, identity, and Kurdistan are being denied. We’re against this. We exist.”
Taşkesen was detained, and released after giving his statement to the prosecution. His comments have received support from many activists and leftists in Turkey and there was public outcry against his detention.
Speaking to Mesopotamia News Agency after he was released, Taşkesen said that he was detained because he spoke the truth.
He relates what happened on the day of the incident, saying that Meral Akşener entered his shop while he was drinking tea with other shopkeepers:
“I said to her, ‘I’d like to ask you a question, Is Selahattin Demirtaş a terrorist? Because that’s what you keep saying in parliament. You keep declaring Demirtaş a terrorist. If Demirtaş is a terrorist, we are all terrorists.'”
Taşkesen said that during the conversation, Akşener and her delegation repeatedly said, “This is Turkey, not Kurdistan”. But, he said, there has been “a century of denial”.
He also received a reply from Akşener, “We are one people, we are one from Kars [in eastern Turkey] to Edirne [in western Turkey]”. Taşkesen thinks it does not reflect the truth.
“Such statements have nothing to do with real life. I was referring not only to Bakur [North] Kurdistan but also Bashur [South], Rojhelat [West], and Rojava [East] Kurdistan. I was referring to over 50 million Kurds. Kurds have lived on this land for thousands of years. Our roots go back thousands of years. We are a people and geography. They are in denial of that. I told them that.”
“Then it came to Kurdistan. She couldn’t answer. Because something is being denied. Our roots go back thousands of years,” he stated.
He also recalled Turkish president Erdogan using the term ‘Kurdistan’:
“President Erdogan said ‘Kurdistan’ for his own interests. For instance at a group meeting of his party, Justice and Development Party (AKP) president Tayyip Erdogan openly said ‘Kurdistan’. It has been recorded in parliamentary records. He shouts out, ‘Kurdistan!’ just to get votes from the Kurds. But when his interests are fulfilled, he denies Kurdistan. The system is built on denial of the Kurds,” he said.