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Erdoğan under fire after acknowledging doctored video linking Kılıçdaroğlu with terrorism

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is facing intense criticism from the opposition and dissidents after publicly acknowledging that a video clip he had previously presented as evidence linking his secular rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was actually doctored.

More than 40,000 people, including 5,500 security force members, have been killed in four decades of fighting between Turkish security forces and the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.

Shown by Erdoğan at a huge rally in İstanbul on May 7 and broadcast on live TV, the 14-second clip showed the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader and presidential candidate Kılıçdaroğlu trying to rally his supporters to the tune of his campaign song. In the next sequence, members of the PKK echoed that call while clapping their hands to the beat of the song.

The message Erdoğan was trying to project was clear: The secular opposition leader had formed a union with “terrorists.” Only it was a manipulation, one of the latest pieces of disinformation to pollute the May 14 elections, Turkey’s most important in generations.

As a response to a question asked during a live broadcast on the state-run TRT Haber on Monday, Erdoğan again accused Kılıçdaroğlu of having video shoots with the PKK and said, referring to the 14-second clip, “Fake or not, PKK members supported [the opposition] with videos.”

Erdoğan’s statement acknowledging that the video clip he used as evidence linking Kılıçdaroğlu with the PKK was a fake sparked outrage among opposition figures, who accused the president on social media of orchestrating a deliberate campaign to discredit his political opponent.

Referring to Erdoğan as a manipulator, Kılıçdaroğlu said in a series of tweets that he was tired of being falsely accused while Erdoğan never seems to get tired of spreading false accusations.

“My God, please reveal to everyone who is innocent and who is guilty,” Kılıçdaroğlu added.

İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu from the CHP also posted Erdoğan’s remarks in a tweet, saying that a campaign of “slander and conspiracy” unbecoming a Muslim backfired on Erdoğan.

“The morality, conscience and foresight of this nation won’t tolerate manipulation, false accusations or schemes,” he added.

Erdoğan’s remarks also drew a reaction from CHP İstanbul branch chairperson Canan Kaftancıoğlu, who accused him of being “not only a manipulator but also a conspirator.”

She was referring to an incident in 2018 in which Erdoğan shared a photo with the public claiming that the person in it was Kaftancıoğlu. The photo showed a female protester whose face is partially covered preparing to throw rocks during the Gezi Park protests of 2013.

The protests in 2013 erupted over government plans to demolish Gezi Park in the Taksim neighborhood of İstanbul. They quickly turned into mass anti-government demonstrations that were violently suppressed by the government, leading to the death of 11 protestors due to the use of disproportionate force by the police.

Former prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, leader of the opposition Future Party (GP), also posted a video of Erdoğan’s statement, saying, “Does a Muslim tell lies?”

Academic Nesrin Nas, a former leader of the Motherland Party (ANAP), also said it was “painful” and “devastating” that the president was making excuses for a fake video, saying it might be something else.

Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun criticized Kılıçdaroğlu for referring to Erdoğan as a manipulator, adding that the Turkish nation would hold anyone accountable who dared insult and attack Erdoğan.

 

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