Turkey’s main opposition leader and presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has accused President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of treating Kurds like terrorists in order to win more votes in next month’s elections, asking people not to fall for his political propaganda.
The Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader on Monday released a short video on Twitter titled “Kurds,” accusing Erdoğan of “shamefully” labeling Kurds as terrorists as part of electoral propaganda for the presidential and parliamentary elections slated for May 14.
— Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (@kilicdarogluk) April 17, 2023
Kılıçdaroğlu, the joint candidate of an opposition bloc of six parties, enjoys also the tacit support of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which has not fielded its own candidate so as to not split the opposition vote.
Erdoğan and his far-right ally, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, accuse Kılıçdaroğlu of collaborating with “terrorists” due to the HDP’s support for him. Kılıçdaroğlu met with the HDP co-chairpersons last month to seek their support for his candidacy.
“They spend millions of lira every day on social media trolls who treat Kurds like terrorists just to be able to insult me. They are alienating our people from the state. For what? [A few] more votes. … They really feel no shame,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, referring to Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
The CHP leader talked about the Turkish-Kurdish brotherhood, saying destiny had brought them together and that “destiny told us to be brothers and sisters.”
“My beloved people, do not, under any circumstances, fall for this propaganda. Do not forget our bond of brotherhood. … I will never allow anyone to harm our brotherhood for the sake of [a few] votes. Be patient for a little while longer,” he added.
On various occasions during election campaigns, Erdoğan has attracted widespread accusations of racism and of equating the HDP and Kurds with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists in his speeches.
The ruling AKP increased its crackdown on Kurds, especially after the collapse of Ankara’s settlement process with the outlawed PKK in 2015.
The settlement process, which refers to direct talks between the AKP government and Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK – listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community – began in 2012 and ended after two police officers were executed in southeastern Şanlıurfa province in June 2015.
Kılıçdaroğlu recently accused Erdoğan of “exploiting” the process solely to protect his political position and making citizens pay the price in the foreword of a book authored by a lawmaker from his party.
Over the past years Kılıçdaroğlu has expressed multiple times his desire to resolve the Kurdish issue, which is a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse that refers to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.
The CHP leader has argued that the Kurdish issue could be resolved through political and societal consensus at the Turkish parliament with a legitimate interlocutor such as the HDP – parliament’s second-largest opposition group – instead of Öcalan, who he said was an illegitimate actor.
The so-called Kurdish issue is entrenched in Turkey and is characterized by never-ending clashes between the PKK and Turkish security forces. More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between the Turkish state and the PKK.