News / Middle East

    Turkey’s Youngest Mayor Honors Father’s Legacy

    Daughter of Kurdish Activist Becomes Turkey's Youngest Mayori
    X
    Dorian Jones
    July 03, 2014 10:36 PM
    In the three-decade conflict between the Turkish state and Kurds seeking greater minority rights, tens of thousands of people were killed, and some of the victims' families fled to Europe. One of those was Leyla Imret, who grew up in Germany after her activist father was killed by Turkish security forces. Imret returned to Turkey to take up her father’s struggle, though, and became the country’s youngest mayor at 27. Dorian Jones has the story for VOA.
    Dorian Jones

    The town of Cizre, in the heart of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, was a frontline of the war pursued by PKK Kurdish rebels seeking greater minority rights. It is a town synonymous with stories of death, torture and violence.

    But the story of its newly elected mayor offers some hope, observers say.

    At age 27, Leyla Imret is Turkey’s youngest mayor. Her election in March marked the culmination of a remarkable journey.

    During the three-decade conflict between Turkey and the PKK, tens of thousands died and many of the victims' families fled to Europe.  After Turkish security forces killed her father, a leading local Kurdish activist, Imret was brought up by relatives in Germany.

    For more than 20 years, she and her family stayed away from Cizre.  But last September, the urge to return became too strong.

    "It is a strange feeling to come back to your hometown for the first time after 22 years, to the land where your grandfathers and father grew up, to your own soil," Imret said.

    A sense of belonging

    When she arrived, Imret immediately felt she belonged, she said. She felt this most strongly when she visited her family's old house, the street where they lived, and her father's grave for the first time.

    Imret not only decided to stay in Cizre, she was inspired to carry on her father's struggle and to seek the nomination to run for mayor for the pro-Kurdish BDP.

    Imret recalled that, when she was a child, her father would tell her mother the girl “should study in Europe and come back here and serve her own people.”

    "Twenty-five years ago, he uttered these words and they all came true,"  Imret says. "My father became a martyr and we had to leave Cizre and I ended up in Germany, none of which I ever imagined could happen.”

    Memories of father persist

    She left at age five, but memories of her father remained a powerful force in the town. Powerful enough, Imret acknowledges, to secure her nomination.

    Observers say it also contributed to her securing 80 percent of the vote, a record for Turkish elections.

    As Imret walks through the streets, spontaneous applause breaks out.  Calm has returned to this region, with the government initiating a peace process with the Kurdish rebels.

    While its progress has stalled, Imret's return and her taking up her father’s struggle for Kurdish rights is symbolically important to people here.

    A man on the street says he never met Imret's father, but heard he was a good man, a patriot who made many sacrifices. The man calls it positive for the town that she has become mayor and is carrying on her father's legacy.

    Imret says the opportunity to serve her people more than compensates for any fears she and her family had about leaving the safety and comfort of life in Germany.

    She says she is here out of love for her people and homeland.

    But, observers caution, being the mayor of one Turkey’s most impoverished towns – one still recovering from decades of strife – will be a formidable task for the country’s youngest mayor.  

    You May Like

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Ferdi from: Turkey
    July 04, 2014 6:32 AM
    PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by US and EU. So why do you call them as Kurdish rebels? Do you know how many people were killed by PKK? I'm talking about children, teachers, women, babies! VOA, please next time be a little bit honest! PKK is not different from Al-Qaeda. They all kill innocent people... If you name PKK as rebels, someone can also define Al-Qaeda as rebels!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora