Belgian Kurd minister renounces Turkish citizenship

"A little over 37 years after my birth, my Kurdish identity is still a thorn in the eye for Turkey."
author_image Ari Khalidi

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Belgium’s state secretary for socioeconomic affairs Zuhal Demir, a Kurd with roots in Turkey, announced Friday she was going to renounce her Turkish citizenship.

“It’s not a good time to say goodbye. Yet a little over 37 years after my birth, my Kurdish identity is still a thorn in the eye for Turkey,” Demir said in a statement she titled "Goodbye" on her personal Facebook page.

“But, unlike my parents, I am free of the tentacles of Ankara,” she added.

In her post, Demir, born and raised in Belgium to migrant parents from the Kurdish province of Dersim, highlighted her love for Turkey but stated the love was unrequited.

“A country that had no love for that other identity I was given at birth, for which there is no passport,” Demir said of Turkey, reminding of the Turkish state’s assimilationist policies against the Kurds and her people’s statelessness.

She said “Kurdishness” was an identity she “secretly had to bring together, despite Turkey and [her] intimidated parents” who she said Turkey did not allow to be free Kurds.

“We have grown apart, Turkey and I. I have become a Flemish woman with proud Kurdish roots. Everything Turkey did not want,” she wrote.

“I studied here, lived, found the love of a Flemish man. I have had the opportunity to grow here and to do politics. This is home. Flanders has adopted me, and I am Flanders,” she added.

Last February, Demir was sworn in as “Minister for Poverty Reduction, Equal Opportunities, People with Disabilities, Urban Policy, and Scientific Policy” by King Philippe of Belgium.

Her rise in politics with the Belgium secessionist Flanders Party, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), caught the attention of the Turkish media.

Pro-government media accused Demir of being a supporter of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group waging a decades-long guerrilla warfare against Turkish troops for Kurdish rights and self-rule.

“The gap has become too big. The growing influence of Islam, the position of women, democracy and minorities: it’s all the wrong way,” she said in an interview with the Flemish daily De Morgen.

Demir revealed she recently sent a letter to the Turkish Embassy in Brussels for the process of the annulment of her citizenship and passport.

Zuhal Demir (right) with Kurdistan Region's President Masoud Barzani (second left) and Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Jan Jambon (center) in Brussels, July 11, 2017. (Photo: Belgium's Defense Ministry)
Zuhal Demir (right) with Kurdistan Region's President Masoud Barzani (second left) and Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Jan Jambon (center) in Brussels, July 11, 2017. (Photo: Belgium's Defense Ministry)

Earlier this month, Demir, along with Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Jan Jambon, welcomed the Kurdistan Region’s President Masoud Barzani who was on an official visit to Brussels to lobby for the upcoming independence referendum in September.

 

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany