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Campaign for missing Kurdish politician winds up with a rare happy ending

A Kurdish politician who went missing amid bloody clashes in Turkey in May has turned up safe and sound in Iraq, sparking fresh controversy over his disappearance, which had mobilized human rights activists in Turkey.
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On Oct. 7, the Firat news agency ran an unexpected story: Kurdish politician Hursit Kulter was holding a press conference in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, months after he went missing in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast. Even the Kulter family was bewildered as they had lost hope he would ever turn up alive. Activists had mounted a vocal and unrelenting campaign of pressure on Ankara to explain the young politician’s disappearance, which had fueled fears that Turkey was returning to the 1990s, when arbitrary detentions and extrajudicial killings were almost a daily occurrence at the height of the Kurdish conflict in the southeast.

Kulter, a senior member of the Democratic Regions Party’s provincial branch in Sirnak, a province bordering Iraq, went missing May 27 amid fierce clashes raging in urban areas across the southeast between the security forces and militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). According to Kulter’s account, the security forces held and tortured him in a basement in Sirnak for 13 days. He managed to escape and hide in empty buildings for 50 days before sneaking out of the city with the help of a “member of the resistance.” Because of safety concerns, he said, he could not inform his family and the press he was alive, and he apologized for keeping everyone in the dark.

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