The leader of a far-right party in Turkey, an ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, raised eyebrows when he accused kebab shop owners of contributing to the unemployment problem in the country.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Chairman Devlet Bahçeli made the controversial remarks, which quickly went viral on social media, during a party meeting on Tuesday. In his speech Bahçeli criticized people who complain about rising consumer prices and unemployment and accused them of attempting to weaken the government.
Bahçeli is an election ally of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“It is our duty to remind those who abuse the efforts of our people to make a living of the painful cost of terrorism. The separatist kebab sellers who aid and abet terrorism play a role in the unemployment [level in the country],” Bahçeli said, apparently referring to Kurdish kebab shop owners whom he accused of aiding the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The PKK, which has been waging a bloody campaign in Turkey’s Southeast since 1984, is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US.
The unemployment rate in Turkey averaged 10.58 percent from 2005 until 2021, reaching an all-time high of 14.40 percent in July 2020.
There is growing criticism of the government over people’s financial difficulties, which have worsened during the pandemic and with the continuing depreciation of the Turkish lira.
Official data released Monday showed Turkey’s annual inflation rising to 19.58 percent in September, its highest in two-and-a-half years. Inflation has been in double digits for most of the past five years.
Journalist Metin Cihan repeated Bahçeli’s remarks about the kebab shop owners on Twitter, saying, “I didn’t quote him incorrectly, and you didn’t read it incorrectly. That’s exactly what he said.”
A Twitter user named Helun Fırat said, “The separatist kebab sellers of the kebab lobby have just been involved in our political life.”
Another Twitter user posted photos of kebab sellers with kebabs, saying, “Separatist kebab seller terrorists were detected by drones as they were ready to stage an attack.”