ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – With nationwide local elections coming up, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has increased his offensive on the opposition by employing anti-Kurdish sentiments as a scare tactic to discourage voters from electing any other candidate than those endorsed by his right-wing alliance of Islamists and Turkish nationalists.
Over the past several days, one of his major talking points has consistently been Kurdistan, and whether it exists.
“If you love it so much, then get out of Turkey. Go to Northern Iraq. Kurdistan is there. There is no place for you in this country. We have our people and God on our back,” the Turkish President said on Saturday in one of his fiery campaign speeches in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, targeting the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
HDP has support from nearly six million voters according to the results of the last two general elections.
Almost every day during the past week, Erdogan condemned HDP Co-leader Sezai Temelli’s use of the word “Kurdistan” in front of thousands of his supporters in a bid to stoke Turkish nationalist fears from Kurds’ demands of self-rule.
Temelli called on Erdogan to apologize to the Kurdish people for “insulting its values.”
The Turkish leader contests HDP’s designation of Turkey’s Kurdish-majority regions in the east and southeast as Kurdistan, a term that has been used for centuries, including at Ottoman times as an administrative entity.
He has framed it as an existential threat to the Turkish state, urging voters to support mayoral candidates of his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party and those of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
“This is a matter of survival. Against who? The CHP and the party that the terrorist organization backs,” Erdogan said, ostensibly referring to HDP and the Kurdish militant group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
CHP, the secular Republican People’s Party, and HDP along with other opposition parties have formed an unofficial electoral alliance to counter the AKP-MHP.
Erdogan charges the opposition of “working with terrorists” in the run-up to the March 31 local elections in which over 1,400 township, city, and provincial municipalities’ mayors and local councils will be elected.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany