Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent comments on numbers of children reflects a state ideology that is the basis of denialist, assimilationist policies, said Mithat Sancar, the co-chair of pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on Saturday.
Erdoğan stunned many this week when he advised Mehmet Ali Çelebi, a former opposition lawmaker who joined the ranks of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to have more children. Erdoğan advocating families to have more children is not surprising, but what raised eyebrows was the way he justified it by saying, “The numbers should be increased, look, the PKK (the Kurdistan Workers’ Party) has 5, has 10, has 15”.
Many commentators later said that Erdoğan implied Kurdish people, not the PKK.
“Erdoğan knows very well that the members of the organisation (PKK) do not have children. In fact, he is building up a nationalist rhetoric by implying the Kurdish population. Kurds understood this. And he sees having a high number of children as a terrorist act,” Meral Danış Beştaş, a lawmaker of the HDP, told members of parliament this week. “This is a racist’s mentality, this is a mentality that is hostile to Kurds,” she said.
“Those words cannot be seen merely as a couple of sentences uttered unawarely. It reflects a mentality that forms the basis of the state’s denialist, assimilationist policies,” Sancar said on Saturday during his speech at a meeting of HDP provincial co-chairs.
“This mentality can technically and if put mildly, could be named as demographic engineering,” the politician said, adding that demographic engineering has been used in Turkey as a tool of assimilationist policies.
The higher birth rate in Turkey’s Kurdish populated regions for years has been a widespread concern among Turkish nationalists who fear that the Turkish people will lose their demographic advantage in the future. Kurds, Turkey’s largest ethnic minority, are estimated to make up at least 20 percent of the country’s population.
The share of young people in Turkey’s mainly Turkish populated provinces is below 14 percent, while the same percentage is above 20 percent in 19 mainly-Kurdish provinces, which indicates that the shares of the two ethnicities will converge in the coming years.