Erdogan adopts overtly anti-Kurdish stand, despite denying the same
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s overtly repressive policies towards the country’s Kurdish community could cost him peace and stability not only within Turkey but also in the surrounding regions of Syria and Iraq which also house Kurdish people. Though on paper Erdogan denies any such thing as anti-Kurdish stance taken by his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). But his hatred is visible from his frequent deeds and remarks, including the recent one made towards his opponent, Selahattin Demirtas. Erdogan had Demirtas imprisoned for past four years, since November 4, 2016, over terror charges.
While addressing his party members, during this week Erdogan said that Demirtas, the leader of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) had links with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which the country designated as the terrorist organisation. Turkish premier said that Demirtas, who also challenged Erdogan in the 2015 presidential elections, was a “terrorist who has blood on his hands.”
Many Turkish leaders, including Bulent Arinc, a founding member of the ruling AKP, criticized the continued imprisonment of Demirtas, and urged the government for his immediate release. In the most unfair move by the Turkish premier, Demirtas has been kept behind the bars despite courts order for his release. HDP leader faces hundreds of years of imprisonment, for his alleged links with PKK.
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In a recent interview with Demirtas, regarding the release of his book, which he wrote inside the prison, he said that Erdogan had kept him inside because the Turkish leader was afraid of him. Demirtas also mocked Erdogan’s call for democratic reforms which mainly comprise of anti-Kurdish moves.
HDP leaders sceptical of Erdogan’s reform commitments believed that these were nothing more than political ploy. “This reform narrative is not sincere,” said HDP lawmaker Meral Danis Bestas, according to a Reuters news agency report. “This is a party which has been in power for 18 years and which has until now totally trampled on the law. It has one aim: To win back the support which has been lost.”
To silence the rising opposition in support of Demirtas, Turkish authorities issued detention warrants on November 20, for 101 Kurdish lawyers and NGO representatives and conducted house raids as part of an investigation. Besides, Erdogan’s government also justified taking down 59 out of 65 elected Kurdish mayors from their posts in the country’s Kurdish-majority southeast region since local elections held in March 2019.
Erdogan’s crackdown over dissenting leaders was criticised by many rights groups. On November 19, Human Rights Watch and Article 19 released a joint statement saying that the Turkish government “distorted and perverted the legal process” to keep Demirtas and other HDP politicians behind bars by “misusing detention and criminal proceedings in a campaign of persecution against Demirtas in particular.”