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

    How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Probe Targeting China's Statistic Head Sparks Concern

    Economists now asking what prompted government to launch an investigation only months after Wang Baoan had been vetted for crucial job

    HRW: Both Sides in Ukraine Conflict Targeted, Used Schools

    Rights group documents how both sides in Ukraine conflict carried out attacks on schools and used them for military purposes

    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.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.