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After Jailing Their Leaders, Erdogan Courts Kurdish Kingmakers

Days before blaming Kurdish militants for a bomb in Istanbul, the president’s ruling party was reaching out to the minority’s grassroots.

People walk behind a picture of Selahattin Demirtas, in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018.

People walk behind a picture of Selahattin Demirtas, in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2018.

Photographer: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

Selahattin Demirtas is the most prominent Kurdish inmate in Turkey, vilified by the government as a terrorist. On Nov. 12, he boarded a small plane to visit his father in hospital after a heart attack.

Compassionate day release is hardly a norm for political prisoners in a country that’s blamed many a terror attack on Kurdish separatists, most recently the bomb that killed six people and wounded dozens in Istanbul on Nov. 13. But the act of benevolence had a subplot, and it didn’t stop Turkey’s air force from launching strikes on Sunday against Kurdish military bases in Syria and Iraq by way of retaliation for the bomb.