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Europe

Turkey referendum: a girl named Yes

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Kurdish farmer Mustafa Celik with his daughter, Hevet Tony Cross/RFI

As Turks debate whether to vote “Evet” (Yes) or “Hahir” (No) in next Sunday's constitutional referendum on giving the president extensive powers, one man is definitely convinced by current leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan's message.

My daughter was born on 27 January," Mustafa Celik explains. "As you know there is going to be a referendum and because we like the president we gave this name, Evet, to my daughter.”

So the two-month-old will answer to the name Yes for the rest of her life because her dad wants the Yes side to win next Sunday.

With a long struggle for political and cultural rights behind them, many Kurds support the left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which is firmly in the No camp.

Celik used to vote for the HDP but believes they are too close to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the guerrilla movement that has fought an armed struggle against successive governments for decades.

And, as he tries to scratch a living on the stony soil of a farm two hours’ drive from Diyarbakir city, he says Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has improved his life as no other party has.

“Before the AKP came to power there were no roads to our village, there was no drinking water in our village and we could not go to hospital because we had to pay," he says, as he sits in the spring sun sipping strong Turkish tea. "After they came to power everything changed because we have these services and I don’t believe the others can do that.”

Celik, his two wives and eight children, are still far from living in the lap of luxury.

Their home is a one-storey rectangle with carpets scattered on the cement floor and a curtain instead of a door in front of the squat toilet.

Chickens and ducklings wander in the yard, there are several hectares of land but they are not good enough to grow crops.

His current ambition is to buy a car to negotiate the mud tracks and potholed roads that lead to the village.

Kurdish vote could be decisive

According to a poll last month about 57 percent of Kurds will probably vote No and about 25 percent Yes.

In Taveran village, near Celik's home, however, other residents assure us they are all voting Yes.

One of them, Adem Karakoc, is unphased by Erdogan’s nationalist rhetoric, which centres on references to a “strong Turkey”.

“I think a strong Turkey is not about ethnic groups and cultures," he says. "It means everybody, Turks and Kurds, everybody.”

He, too, credits the AKP with bringing facilities to the area and that counts for a lot in such a neglected area.

With the left opposed to Erdogan’s plan and the nationalist right divided, the Kurds’ vote could be decisive.

For once, villagers like these may hold some real political power.

To read our coverage of Turkey's referendum click here.

 

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