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Turkey: In Some Areas, Clans Call the Political Shots

When Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdrogan recently expressed a wish to see more women running in the country's upcoming July 22 parliamentary elections, Ibrahim Ozyavuz, a mayor from the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), heeded his leader's call.

Using his influence, Ozyavuz made sure that a woman's name was added to the list of local AKP candidates, the first time a major political party had ever done so in the Sanliurfa region of southeastern Turkey, which, in social terms, is an extremely conservative place. Ozyavuz, the mayor of a small town outside the city of Sanliurfa, was intimately familiar with the groundbreaking candidate's qualifications. After all, the parliamentary hopeful, a geophysicist named Cagla Ozyavuz, happened to be his wife.

Not that this was anything unusual. In many parts of southeast Turkey, where hidebound traditions and blood ties rule and feudal clans dominate public life, politics can be a family affair. When election time comes around, political parties have long known that having a leader of a clan – known as "asiret" in Turkish – as a candidate can guarantee victory at the ballot box.

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Yigal Schleifer is a freelance journalist based in Turkey.

Turkey: In Some Areas, Clans Call the Political Shots

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