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August 09, 2014 AT 4:22 AM
Unthinkable just a few years ago, Selahattin Demirtas' bid for Turkey's highest office underscores how Kurdish politics has entered the mainstream even as Kurds in neighboring Syria and Iraq push for more autonomy. Peace talks between Turkey and Kurdish rebels, overseen by Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to try to end a three-decade war, have brought two years of calm and paved the way for Demirtas to run as Turkey's first openly Kurdish presidential candidate. Demirtas said in an interview, "My candidacy is merely the most visible aspect of how much Turkey has changed as racism and extreme nationalist sentiment weaken,"