The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who on Friday attended the opening ceremony of a newly-built mosque in the southeastern province of Kurdish-majority Diyarbakır, used the event as an opportunity for election propaganda.
Erdoğan opened the mosque together with Zekeriya Yapıcıoğlu, the leader of the Islamist Free Cause Party (Hüda-Par), which was founded in 2012 on the ashes of the outlawed Kurdish Hizbullah, unrelated to the Lebanese Hizbullah.
Hüda-Par’s inclusion to the People Alliance led by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ahead of 14 May elections was criticised by many due to the Islamist party’s Hizbullahist roots. The Kurdish Hizbullah is held responsible for many violent killings in southeast Turkey during the peak of clashes between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) during the 1990s.
Some commentators also claimed that Erdoğan’s move would anger his main ally Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), as Hüda-Par’s programme’s demands, which include the establishment of a federal system in Turkey, Kurdish autonomy, approving Kurdish as the second official language and removing the word “Turkishness” from the constitution, would simply be deemed “separatist” by nationalist hardliners.
However, Bahçeli was present in the mosque opening ceremony on Friday, along with several ministers in Erdoğan’s cabinet.
Artı Gerçek reported that supporters of Hüda-Par dominated the crowd which gathered for the ceremony, while claiming that supporters of the AKP were less motivated.
“Since its foundation (and leaving aside obstacles over accreditation imposed in recent years) I have followed numerous rallies of the AKP. This is the first time I witnessed a rally that is so dull and unexcited,” said journalist Mahmut Bozarslan.
In his speech, Erdoğan targeted the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and its former co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş who has been in prison since 2016.
“They are not interested in Kurds, they are terrorists,” said the Turkish President, accusing the Kurdish politicians of facilitating the collapse of a peace process that was started in 2013 between the Turkish state and the PKK in 2015.