Meral Danış Beştaş, running for co-mayor of Istanbul on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy (DEM) Party ticket, vowed in a social media post on Saturday to make the city a centre of equality, tolerance and peace.
Following the announcement of her nomination, Beştaş addressed Istanbul’s diverse identity: “Istanbul is Serhat, Çukurova, Thrace, Botan, Amed [Diyarbakır], the Black Sea, Aegean and Anatolia… Hello Istanbul!”*
She shared her vision for the city on X, formerly Twitter, with a post focusing on inclusivity and respect for all communities: “We will make Istanbul a centre of equality, tolerance and peace. We will be enriched by our mosques, community centres, churches and synagogues. We will grow with the willpower of women, the enthusiasm of youth and the strength of our people. Come, let us embrace each other with the halay, horon and zeybek.** We are beginning, wait for us Istanbul!”
In a message reaching Kurdish audiences, Beştaş emphasised Istanbul’s pivotal role across diverse regions and reiterated her dedication to fostering unity and cultural diversity. She acknowledged the widely held perception within the Kurdish community that Istanbul, due to its significant Kurdish population, acts as the unofficial second city, after the capital Diyarbakır, of the Kurdish regions of Turkey, and she highlighted the city’s unique position in the cultural and political landscape of the region.
Beştaş and her colleague Murat Çepni represent the DEM Party’s co-mayoral candidates for Istanbul in the local elections, scheduled for 31 March, which will be closely watched as a major test for Turkish politics.
* Serhat (covering parts of Hakkari/Colemêrg, Van/Wan and some territories in Iraq and Iran), Botan (covering parts of Şırnak/Şirnex, Hakkari, Van, Siirt/Sêrt, Eruh/Dihê and parts of northern Iraq), and Amed (covering parts of Diyarbakır, Bingöl/Çewlig, Genç/Darahêne, and Muş/Mûş) are Kurdish geographic regions, and Çukurova is the historical Cilicia region.
** Halay, horon and zeybek refer to traditional folk dances of southeastern, Black Sea and Aegean regions in Turkey.