ISTANBUL, Turkey (Kurdistan 24) – Turkey’s President and leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday criticized the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and claimed it could not be representative of the country’s large Kurdish population.
“So, you [HDP] are representing the Kurds? Is that so? In our government, in my party, among top officials, we have my Kurdish brothers,” Erdogan said, slamming the HDP, reported Kurdistan 24’s Turkish language service.
He was speaking at a convention in Istanbul of the Directorate of Religious Affairs that serves the constitutionally secular nation’s Sunni Muslim population with state funds.
Erdogan exemplified his point by stating two deputy Prime Ministers Bekir Bozdag and Mehmet Simsek were Kurds as well as his party’s deputy leader Mehdi Eker.
“Supremacy is not being Kurdish or Turkish. He who is closer to Allah is supreme,” Erdogan told an audience composed of students of Islamic studies from the Kurdish region.
“Everyone bound to the Turkish state through the bond of citizenship is a Turk,” rules the 66th article of the Turkish Constitution.
The article was at the center of much discussion whether to amend for a more inclusive definition during the 2013-2015 peace talks and ceasefire between the Turkish government and the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The Turkish President has previously attacked the HDP, a secular leftist party whose hundreds of members including 10 lawmakers and Co-leader Selahattin Demirtas remain imprisoned, alleging its program and demands were anti-Islamic.
“These [people] are atheists; they are Zoroastrians,” said Erdogan last year during a rally in the major Kurdish province of Diyarbakir where the HDP got 79 and 71 percent of the votes in June and November 2015 general elections respectively.
In September, the Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu declared the PKK was fighting to make Kurds atheists.
Erdogan’s recent remarks came as HDP lawmakers have been speaking up a last month legislation by the AKP and its far-right allies that banned certain words and terms considered in violation of the Turkish state’s “indivisibility” and insulting to its history.
The new bylaw bars lawmakers from saying “Kurdistan, Kurdish region, Kurdish provinces” among other words, such as “genocide” in relation to the systematic extermination and deportation of the Armenian people by the Ottoman authorities in the early 20th century.
Meral Danis Bestas, a leading HDP lawmaker, demanded in a late July speech to the Parliament to know why the laws and state policies were targeting the Kurds, their cultural and political expressions.
“Are you saying the Kurds should not be Kurdish? Or even if they remain Kurdish, they should be like our Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, Ahmet Aydin,” she asked.
Aydin, a member of the AKP who hails from the Kurdish province of Adiyaman, in response said he never denied his Kurdish identity but stated “he was Muslim” and the rest did not matter.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany