Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has attracted widespread accusations of racism and of equating Kurds with terrorists of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) due to his advice to a new party member about the need to have many children.
Erdoğan accepted former military officer and former secular opposition party politician Mehmet Ali Çelebi into his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) during a parliamentary group meeting on Wednesday, urging him and his wife to have more children in remarks found by many to be racist.
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,” Erdoğan urged him and his wife to have more children since people from the PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, have “five or 10 or 15” each, in comments believed to be an oblique reference to Kurds in general that drew outrage from many, including opposition politicians.
Özgür Özel, parliamentary group deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said during a speech in parliament on Wednesday that Erdoğan’s remarks declaring people in Turkey terrorists because of their ethnic identity was “reckless” and that the president should apologize for uttering them.
“The head of state insults the Kurdish identity [and] citizens. It is [both] discriminatory and divisive,” CHP MP Mehmet Bekaroğlu told the Gazete Karınca news website on Wednesday.
Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) vice chair Tayip Temel told the Diken news website on Wednesday that Erdoğan’s remarks referring to Kurds amounted to an “attack” on their existence and were an admission of his hostility towards Kurds.
“These statements of Erdoğan correspond to complete racism. … [They] are a concrete indication of his intolerance of the Kurdish existence and his hostile feelings towards the Kurdish people,” Temel said.
HDP parliamentary group deputy chair Meral Danış Beştaş also said during an HDP group meeting on Wednesday that she condemned Erdoğan’s “impudence” to talk about women’s bodies and reproduction since it was a decision for women themselves whether or not to have children.
“It’s not possible to understand why a president interferes with how many children people have. They see [Kurds] having many children as affiliation with terrorism. This is a racist mindset. … This is the language of hate. We condemn it,” she added.
“He tells every woman how many children she should have,” Ali Babacan, leader of the opposition Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), said in a tweet on Wednesday, adding that it was “a pity” and “embarrassing” for Erdoğan to accuse millions of Kurdish citizens in Turkey of terrorism since he knows PKK militants don’t give birth to five or 10 children in the mountains.
Gördüğü her kadına kaç çocuk doğurması gerektiğini söylüyor. Dağda 5-10 çocuk doğurmadıklarını biliyor ama milyonlarca Kürt vatandaşımızı teröristlikle itham ediyor. Yazık, utanç verici. https://t.co/6V646EzngG
— Ali Babacan (@alibabacan) October 19, 2022
Mustafa Yeneroğlu, a lawmaker from DEVA, also said: “Since the PKK can’t have ‘5-10-15 children,’ isn’t it clear what he [Erdoğan] means? These words coming from a president are terrifying…”
Kadın açıktan doğum makinesi…
'5-10-15 tane çocuk' yapan PKK olamayacağına göre ne kastettiği bir o kadar açık ve vahim değil mi?
Bir Cumhurbaşkanı’nın ağzından bu cümleler dehşet verici… https://t.co/HsPVModogZ
— Mustafa Yeneroğlu (@myeneroglu) October 19, 2022
“What you mean [by the PKK] is clear, Mr. Erdoğan!” Future Party (GP) Chairman Ahmet Davutoğlu said in a tweet, adding that it was “racist” to discriminate between children since “every child born in this country is an honorable citizen of the Republic of Turkey.”
Bu ülkenin çocukları Kandil’de doğmadığına göre, kastınız apaçık ortada Sn. Erdoğan!
İfadeleriniz insan haklarına ve kadın haklarına saygısızlıktır. Bu ülkede doğan her çocuk onurlu bir Türkiye Cumhuriyeti vatandaşıdır. Çocuklar arasında ayrım yapmak ırkçılıktır! https://t.co/TCaAcCykSE
— Ahmet Davutoğlu (@Ahmet_Davutoglu) October 19, 2022
Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) lawmaker Sera Kadıgil tweeted, “This country is run by a person who sees women as incubators and who can spread hatred against both women and Kurds in a single sentence!”
Posting a video of Erdoğan’s statements to Çelebi and his wife, Kadıgil said they were “shameful” moments for both the president and for those who stood there and listened to his words.
Kadını kuluçka makinesi olarak gören, bir tek cümlede hem kadınlara, hem Kürtlere nefret saçabilen biri yönetiyor bu ülkeyi!
Zihninin kirine bak, ettiği laflara bak!
Söyleyeni izlemek ayrı, karşısında el pençe divan kuzu kuzu şu lafları dinleyenleri izlemek ayrı utanç verici… https://t.co/9QNAbuQExu
— Sera Kadıgil (@serakadigil) October 19, 2022
Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish HDP and a prominent defender of human rights, also posted a video of Erdoğan’s remarks and urged the president to apologize to both Kurds and women in Turkey.
“These words explain why the Kurdish issue has arisen and why it has not been resolved,” the MP said, referring to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.
.@RTErdogan, tüm Kürtlerden ve kadınlardan özür dilemelidir. Kürt meselesinin niye çıktığı ve neden çözülmediğinin açıklaması bu sözlerdedir. pic.twitter.com/yqWKfW6wpW
— Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu (@gergerliogluof) October 20, 2022
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 ruling AKP increased its crackdown on Kurds, especially after the collapse of Ankara’s reconciliation process with the outlawed PKK in 2015.