ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday made controversial remarks about birth rates in Turkey in which he urged who he called "Muslim" women to deliver more babies because "the terrorists" were bearing at least "10 to 15 children."
Erdogan's comments drew criticism from the opposition lawmakers who said, given the annual fertility rates per province, his words were targeting the Kurds and not the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which bars its fighters from any sexual or marital relations.
"What do our god and prophet say? The order is pretty clear. Get married and reproduce. It is imperative that Muslims reproduce. I trust Muslim women's sensitivity on this issue," he told a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul.
"The terrorist group in Turkey is very sensitive on this. They have at least ten to 15 children," Erdogan said, without specifying which group he meant in his televised speech.
Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy leader Mehmet Bekaroglu questioned Erdogan's words.
"He is not talking about the Kurds but the terrorists. Is that so? Have the terrorists laid down weapons and started making babies?" Bekaroglu, also an MP for Istanbul, asked.
"Is this where we have come? President is saying Kurds are giving birth to too many babies, you do the same," the MP of ethnic Laz origin tweeted in criticism of Erdogan.
According to Turkish Statistical Institute, an official government body, the first ten provinces with the highest total fertility rates in 2016 were Kurdish-majority ones, among them Sanliurfa, Agri, Siirt, Sirnak, Mus, Bitlis, Mardin, Van, Diyarbakir, and Batman.
With a total fertility rate of 4.33, Sanliurfa was twice the national average which stood at 2.10 while the other Kurdish provinces making to top ten were all above 3.10.
The ten provinces with the lowest rates were all Turkish, said a May 2017 report.
Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen called President Erdogan's comments "fascism."
"How are the conservative Kurds going to interpret this," he asked, pointing out to the fact that Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) received significant electoral support from Kurds who prioritize their Muslim identity over a national cause.
HDP's Co-leader Serpil Kemalbay accused Erdogan of enmity toward the Kurdish people and described his rhetoric as racist.
"He is saying if you call yourself Kurdish then you are not Muslim. This is a poisonous, provocative language. We have to stand up to politicians who otherize," she told a public rally in Diyarbakir.
Kurdish region in Turkey has historically been much less developed in terms of industry and infrastructure, with people mostly depending on traditional agriculture, raising livestock or doing labor in more industrialized Turkish provinces.
Erdogan earlier this year called on millions-strong Turkish diaspora in European countries to have five children and not "at least three" as he has been urging since 2008.
Editing by Sam A.