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WikiLeaks: 2009-03-27: 09ISTANBUL125: Minority Mayoral Candidate Opens A Door

by WikiLeaks. 09ISTANBUL125: March 27, 2009.

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 07:04 PM UT


Viewing cable 09ISTANBUL125, MINORITY MAYORAL CANDIDATE OPENS A DOOR

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
09ISTANBUL125 2009-03-27 11:56 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Istanbul
VZCZCXRO2104
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHIT #0125/01 0861156
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 271156Z MAR 09
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8885
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK PRIORITY
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000125 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/25/2019 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL OSCE TU
SUBJECT: MINORITY MAYORAL CANDIDATE OPENS A DOOR 
 
REF: ISTANBUL 118 
 
Classified By: Consul General Sharon A. Wiener for reasons 1.4 (b) and 
(d). 
 
1. (SBU) Summary. For the first time in 50 years, Turkey has 
an Armenian mayoral candidate. During a mid-March meeting, 
Democratic Left Party (DSP) candidate Yayla Karabet readily 
acknowledged that he was selected to appeal to the minority 
population on the Prince's Islands in the Sea of Marmara. His 
campaign appeals to the resident minority population as well 
as to the environmental concerns of the islanders.  Karabet 
has a strong base among the Armenian community on the 
Islands, but is competing with a 10-year incumbent from the 
ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) party and a former 
district governor from the Republican People's Party (CHP). 
End Summary. 
 
--------------- 
Minority Appeal 
--------------- 
 
2. (C) Part of the first resurgence of minority municipal 
candidates since the 1950s, Democratic Left Party (DSP) 
mayoral candidate for the Princess Islands Yayla Karabet is 
very quick to acknowledge that he was chosen as an Armenian 
appeal to the minority population on the islands. It has been 
over 50 years since the last Turkish-Armenian held a mayoral 
seat, he said, and the "upswing" in the number of minority 
candidates and those holding appointed positions (five in 
Istanbul) is a relatively new phenomena.  In 2004, Karabet 
ran as a candidate for candidacy for the left wing Social 
Democratic Peoples' Party (SHP) on the islands but was 
ultimately not selected as the candidate.  While Karabet 
could not provide an explanation for this change, others, 
including lawyer Fethiye Cetin, suggest that it was spurred 
by the murder of Hrant Dink in 2007. 
 
3. (SBU) Having grown up in the southeastern city of Malatya 
where his grandfather was a priest, Karabet moved to Istanbul 
for university in the 1960s. Like other Armenian families 
from that region during that decade, his family joined him. 
He estimated that only 12 or 13 Armenian families remain in 
Malatya and notes most emigrated from Turkey to Canada, while 
others converted. While growing up in Malatya, as well as 
during his studies in Istanbul and subsequent work as a 
doctor at the Austrian Hospital in Istanbul, he never 
self-identified as a minority or felt singled-out as such. 
 
------------------- 
Unique Demographics 
------------------- 
 
4. (C) Throughout his 25 years in politics, Karabet has 
worked with the Motherland Party (ANAP), CHP, SHP, and now 
DSP. Similar to Istanbul's Sisli municipality, which has an 
Armenian deputy mayor (Ref A), the demographics of the 
islands are unique in Turkey. The majority of the 16,000 
islanders are Armenian, Greek, Jewish, or Syriac.  Karabet's 
campaign focuses on the preservation of the cultural mosaic 
and plurality of the islands which he perceives as being 
threatened. "Since the 1950s, the minority population on the 
islands has diminished due to pressure and threats from the 
religious Islamic movement and nationalists."  He could not 
cite any specific examples of "threats" on the islands. 
 
5. (SBU) In addition to cultural preservation, Karabet plans 
to promote health tourism, encourage more members of the 
cultural diaspora to return for tourism, discourage 
additional winter residents, and focus on waste water and 
solid waste management on the islands. He noted that the 
variety of fish in the Sea of Marmara has decreased from 120 
to only four or five. He blamed the greater Istanbul 
municipality for allowing uncontrolled growth on the mainland 
which resulted in greater water pollution.  Not surprisingly 
for such a small population, his campaign strategy relies 
largely on his personal relationship with the people of the 
islands. Karabet said he knows all of the islands' carriage 
drivers and has a personal relationship with everyone on the 
traditionally Armenian island of Kinali.  Additionally, he 
ran a successful 3,000 signature campaign that prevented the 
installation of antennae on the islands in 2008. 
 
------------------ 
Winning for Turkey 
------------------ 
 
 
ISTANBUL 00000125  002 OF 002 
 
 
6. (C) Karabet faces steep competition.  He is challenging a 
popular AKP incumbent who has held the mayoral position for 
10 years, while CHP is fielding a former district governor as 
its candidate. A Democratic Party (DP) Jewish candidate 
"doesn't have a chance" according to Karabet, but is not 
willing to join forces with Karabet. Karabet said he would 
also be open to working with the MHP mayoral candidate, but 
both other candidates have chosen to work independently. 
 
7. (C) Comment: Karabet's candidacy reflects a recent 
pragmatic acknowledgement of the presence and electoral power 
of religious and ethnic minorities in areas of Istanbul. The 
fact that no minority candidates had been selected for 
decades in the liberal and minority-majority Islands 
demonstrates the marginalization of ethnic and religious 
minorities in Turkey.  While Karabet himself acknowledges 
that he faces very stiff competition, his selection as a 
candidate is a foot in the door for minorities in Turkey and 
thereby a win in itself. End Comment. 
Wiener

 



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