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Erdoğan advises secular politician to have more children as he accepts him into AKP

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urged former military officer and former secular opposition party politician Mehmet Ali Çelebi and his wife to have more children, in remarks found by many to be sexist as he accepted him as a lawmaker into his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Wednesday.

Çelebi, a former lieutenant who was a defendant in the trial of the clandestine Ergenekon organization, last week announced on social media that he would continue his political career in the ranks of the ruling AKP and under the roof of the Public Alliance – made up of the AKP and the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

He was elected as a lawmaker from the secular main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in the 2018 polls. After resigning from the CHP, he joined the opposition Homeland Party (MP), led by Muharrem İnce, a former CHP lawmaker who ran against Erdoğan in the presidential election of 2018. Çelebi also resigned from the MP on Feb. 25.

Erdoğan accepted Çelebi into the AKP during a parliamentary group meeting on Wednesday, pinning an AKP badge on Çelebi’s lapel.

According to Gazete Duvar, following a speech by the party’s new member, Erdoğan shook his hand and asked him how many children he had. When Çelebi answered, “One, sir” and explained that his wife, standing next to him, was currently doing her doctorate, Erdoğan said his wife’s career was “giving birth to children.”

Erdoğan then asked Çelebi’s wife her age and learned that she was 46. “Let’s ask God for the continuation [of children]. Children are very important [for us],” he said.

Erdoğan on Wednesday added to his already long list of sexist and misogynistic comments with remarks that women should have children instead of making a career for themselves, a statement that would outrage members of Çelebi’s secular circle.

On various occasions Erdoğan has called on fellow citizens in Turkey to have at least three children in order to boost the country’s population and keep its average age low, drawing the ire of feminist groups and women’s rights associations.

The president went on to say, in another comment that drew outrage on social media, that people from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, have “five or 10 or 15” children each, believed to be an oblique reference to Kurds in general.

“By saying the ‘PKK,’ he is referring to Kurds in general. He talks like that not because he doesn’t know better or because he’s deranged, but because he’s a fascist,” journalist Amed Dicle said in a tweet on Wednesday.

“Everyone knows that marriage to PKK militants is prohibited and that no one gives birth to a child in the mountains. Erdoğan means the Kurds when he talks about people who have five or 10 or 15 children. He just calls them the PKK,” journalist Maaz İbrahimoğlu said.

CHP lawmaker Mehmet Bekaroğlu also said in a tweet that it was a “pity” that Erdoğan sees all Kurds as members of the outlawed PKK.

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