Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s comments on Wednesday that Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) members “have 15 children each” is a reflection of his view about the Kurdish people, said MP Meral Danış Beştaş.
“Before he would say Kurds, now he says PKK. They have called all Kurds members of the PKK. This is a reflection of their subconscious perception of all Kurdish people as terrorists,” the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP said.
The president’s comments were directed at Mehmet Ali Çelebi, a former soldier who was elected to parliament from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in 2018, and joined Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) just last week.
Welcoming Çelebi to the party, Erdoğan presented the MP with a party pin during the weekly group meeting in parliament. After the short ceremony, the president’s microphone picked up his comments telling Çelebi and his wife to have more children.
“Numbers must be raised,” Erdoğan said. “Let us continue to ask Allah (for more). Children are very important. Look at the PKK, they have five, 10, 15 each.”
Erdoğan “went directly into the matter at the heart of the religious/nationalist alliance: Let us have many children”, journalist Ali Duran Topuz said in a column published on Artı Gerçek news website.
Wednesday’s comments were not the first time the president spoke of being a duty, responding to the PKK’s 15 children each, Topuz said, citing a 2017 speech by Erdoğan.
“It is imperative for Muslims to multiply. I trust in Muslim women’s sensibilities in this matter. The terrorist organisation in Turkey is focused on this. They all have at least 10, 15 children,” the president told women delegates in an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation meeting for young women in leadership roles.
The discourse is reminiscent of the nationalist panic of 1990s that Turks would become a minority with Kurds having many children, Topuz said. “Terrorism is a metaphor, a code name for ‘Kurdophobia’ … Kurdish assimilation must be completed, until it is, every Kurd is terrorism unto himself: This is how the phobic mind works.”
CHP Deputy Group Chairman Özgür Özel said Erdoğan’s comments were “unbecoming for Turkey”.
“Süleyman Soylu (Interior Minister) says there are no PKK members left in Turkey. Soylu should say where these PKK members with 10 children are, but might he (Erdoğan) be implying something else here?” Özel asked in parliament.
The CHP MP also said that state-run Anadolu Agency had “rushed to scrub the transcript to cover up one person’s thoughtlessness”.
Ali Babacan, former AKP minister and current leader of the AKP breakaway DEVA party, said of Erdoğan, “He knows nobody has five to 10 children in the mountains, but he slanders millions of Kurdish citizens of being terrorists. A pity, a shame.”
“Kurds have suffered many insults to date, but never before a president had uttered such racist and inhuman words,” said Serkan Özcan, spokesman for the other AKP breakaway Future Party.
“Every child born in this country is a honourable citizen of the Republic of Turkey. It is racist to discriminate against children,” Future Party leader Ahmet Davutoğlu said.
“We reject with regret claims that our president insulted Kurds. I’ve followed with surprise that you think the picture that was painted was a discourse against Kurds,” AKP Deputy Group Chairman Bülent Turan said. “There is no more Kurdish problem in Turkey but you want there to be one.”