Turkey is currently facing a widespread disinformation campaign as it approaches the presidential run-off vote on 28 May. A manipulated video featuring Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the main rival of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has resurfaced on Monday.
The footage in question, which had already sparked controversy ahead of the 14 May elections with Erdoğan showing to his supporters during his rallies, includes segments from the opposition’s joint presidential candidate Kılıçdaroğlu’s campaign video, but with additional scenes featuring Murat Karayılan, the top commander of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and other members of the Kurdish group, falsely implying their association with Kılıçdaroğlu’s campaign.
During a televised appearance on state-run TRT on Monday, Erdoğan once again accused Kılıçdaroğlu of having a joint electoral campaign video with executives of the PKK in Qandil, a mountainous refuge for the group on the Iraq-Iran border, saying “Be it manipulated or not. PKK members have shown support to them through these videos.”
Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) sees the pro-Kurdish opposition as being an extension of the PKK, which Turkey deems a terrorist organisation. The Erdoğan administration accuses Kılıçdaroğlu’s Republican People’s Party (CHP) of “collaborating with terrorists” over both its talks with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Kılıçdaroğlu’s pre-election pledge to put a peaceful end to the Kurdish conflict in the country.
Statements of PKK leaders calling on Kurdish voters to put an end to the ruling AKP government supported by the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on May 14 have been used repeatedly as ammunition in the propaganda war being waged by Turkey’s pro-government media.
Following Erdoğan’s remarks on TRT, Kılıçdaroğlu quoted Erdoğan’s statement on his Twitter account and called him a “manipulative fraud.”
The opposition’s vice presidential candidate and Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu also took to his social media: “Erdoğan confessed live on air that the video he showed to the people during rallies, making it appear as if it were real, was actually manipulated.”
As the debate continued, journalist Amed Dicle revealed that Karayılan’s footage featured in the manipulated video dates back to 15 August 2021, and not recent days.
In the original footage from 2021, Karayılan celebrates the anniversary of the first actions of the PKK, which took place in 1984.