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May 23, 2012, Wednesday

Implications of Kurdish Hizbullah’s planned demonstration on May 27

In recent years the Kurdish Hizbullah (KH) have organized public events to celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. Hundreds of thousands of people attend these events each year.

The Turkish media have tried to ignore these events and seldom reported them. Similarly, the pro-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) Kurdish media ignored these events as well because they did not want to present the KH as a major political player in the region.

Many political observers have claimed that the large attendance at such events does not demonstrate the power of the KH because Kurds are generally religious and they attend celebrations of Prophet Muhammad’s birthday regardless of the organizers.

Although true, those who offer the above explanation ignore the fact that the KH is not the only group that organizes such events. There are other religious networks that organize various activities to celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday as well but only the KH has the ability to gather these big crowds in one place.

I am sure if other religious organizations thought they could bring hundreds of thousands of people together, they would celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s birthday the way the KH does. Thus, the argument that people attend such demonstrations not because of the KH but because of their respect for Prophet Muhammad is not a good explanation of the KH’s influence on the Kurds.

Over the past seven years, I have pointed out that the KH has been gradually strengthening its power. However, political observers in the region tend not to pay attention to the KH perhaps because it is a religious-Kurdish network associated with horrifying narratives, or perhaps because secular Kurdish organizations and pro-PKK networks have successfully related the KH with the deep state such that even the Western media has not paid enough attention to the growing strength of the KH.

This weekend, the KH planned a demonstration in Diyarbakır to protest a court verdict that shut down Mustazaf-Der, the KH umbrella association that organizes activities such as the celebrations around Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. Since this demonstration has no religious associations, it would demonstrate the influence of the KH.

It seems that even the KH wants to find out how many people would join their call and attend this event without any religious associations. I have spoken to some observers who are close to the KH, and they are optimistic about the upcoming demonstration. The KH believes once again hundreds of thousands of people will attend the protest against the unjust verdict. As an outside observer who has been keeping up with the KH, I too think that the demonstration will attract hundreds of thousands of people protesting the decision.

The size of the upcoming protest will not only demonstrate the plain strength of the KH, but it will provide important information for the KH as well. It seems that the KH is planning to establish a religious Kurdish party but before it announces the final manifest of the party on June 10, the leading figures want to see the power of their full network.

One could argue that the upcoming demonstration in Diyarbakır has the potential of becoming a game-changing historic event that could alter the course of Kurdish politics and the religious political discourse of Turkey as a whole.

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