By Hambersom Aghbashian
Gültan Kışanak (born 15 June 1961, Elazig, Turkey) is a Turkish politician of Kurdish descent and a member of pro Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) . At the age 19, while she was still a college student, she was arrested and put in prison for two years as a political activist after the September 12, 1980 coup in Turkey. In 1982, she was freed and continued her education at Ege University, Faculty of Communication, Journalism and Public Relations Department, Izmir. After graduation she worked as a journalist for various newspapers, and was a Project Consultant and Municipal Coordinator for many projects in Diyarbakir. Gültan Kışanak stood successfully as an independent candidate in the 2007 parliamentary elections in Turkey. During the campaign she was quoted as saying “This election is important because Turkey is at the crossroads. Either it is going to opt for developing democratic alternatives or will bring the oppressive policies back on to the agenda.”
At the beginning of 2009 it was reported that she had prepared a bill to enable the Kurdish language to be used in the public space. Gültan Kışanak is a former co-chair of the Peace and Democracy Party and a member of the 23rd and 24th Grand National Assembly of Turkey (parliament) . In 2014 she was the first female elected as a mayor of Diyarbakir. She is married with one child.
On 24 April 2015, The Armenian Genocide was publicly commemorated in Diyarbakir. The commemoration organizers were Diyarbakir Bar Association, Turkish Human Rights Association (Diyarbakir) and Gomidas Institute (London). Tahir Elçi* (Head, Diyarbakir Bar Association), Raci Bilici (Head, IHD), Ara Sarafian (Gomidas Institute), Gültan Kışanak (Greater Diyarbakir City Co-Mayor), Selahattin Demirtaş (Member of Turkish Parliament and Co-Chair of HDP, leading pro-Kurdish party) and Selma Irmak (Co-Chair, DTK), spoke on this occasion.
The commemoration began with a march from Mardinkapı Street to the Surp Sarkis Armenian Church, where, speaking in Armenian, Sarafian noted that as the Turkish state’s denial continues, Kurds have taken meaningful steps in the right direction. Demirtaş challenged those who question the Armenian Genocide. Kışanak noted that Armenians chose the forget-me-not flower as a symbol of the Armenian Genocide Centennial, and said, “We will never forget it, and we are ready any time to stand with you in your pain.” Elçi, in turn, called on Turkey and the world to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Bilici demanded an apology and reparations for the Armenian Genocide from the Turkish state. (1)
The venue was next to the symbolic ruins of Surp Sarkis, where around 800 people as well as members of the press commemorated the Armenian Genocide. The meeting was powerful in terms of its content and symbolism, and the event attracted good press attention.(2)
* Tahir Elçi (1966 – November 28, 2015) was a Kurdish lawyer and the chairman of Diyarbakir Bar Association. He was murdered in the Sur district of Diyarbakir in the southeastern region of Turkey on 28 November 2015. He was shot once in the head while giving a press statement at the “Four-legged Minaret” mosque, calling for an end to violence. Elçi was detained several times and received death threats after saying the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) should not be regarded as a terrorist organization. In October 2015, Elçi was detained by Turkish authorities on charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda” on behalf of the PKK. Turkish sources reported that Elçi died in a shootout. However, the Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) called the shooting a “planned assassination,” and protests erupted in Turkey after Elçi’s killing. Elçi’s brother Ahmet Elçi was quoted as saying that his brother was “murdered by the state.”