Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has managed to resolve Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish problem during the years it has been in power and that there is no longer such a problem in the country.
Speaking at a fast-breaking dinner in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on Sunday evening, Erdoğan said that “We managed to solve the Kurdish problem only by relying on God and our people. In the old Turkey, Kurds themselves were seen as a problem. No citizen is seen as such in today’s Turkey. Our only problem is terrorism. And we are solving and overcoming it.”
Since it came to power in 2002, the AKP has several times launched talks with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s Southeast since 1984 and is listed as a terrorist organization by the EU, the US and Turkey, in a bid to resolve the Kurdish problem, but they all ended in failure, sparking new clashes between the PKK and the Turkish military.
“When compared to past, there is a freer and more democratic Turkey. There is nobody in this country apart from coup plotters and terror lovers whose freedoms have been curtailed over the past 16 years. The freedoms of none of our citizens have been restricted,” said Erdoğan.
During the 16 years it has been in power, the AKP has taken some steps to expand the rights enjoyed by the Kurds, but they are viewed mostly as symbolic moves, such as the launch of a Kurdish TV station and the restoration of some place names that were originally in Kurdish.
The Kurds are still deprived of the right to receive education in their mother tongue, and there is no reference to them as equal citizens in the Constitution of Turkey. These are two major demands of the country’s Kurdish population among many others.
CHP’S İNCE PROMISES TO SOLVE KURDISH ISSUE
On the other hand, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) presidential candidate Muharrem İnce pledged to solve the Kurdish problem in parliament, stating that the main opposition would form a commission with representatives of all political parties for the solution.
“The Kurdish problem is a problem of democratization, it is a problem of freedom, a cultural problem, an economic problem, but first of all, it is a problem of political ethics,” İnce said in the eastern province of Van on Monday.
His comments came a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. “There is no Kurdish issue,” he said. İnce has criticized the ruling AKP’s approach to the issue. “If I become president, which I believe I will, I will solve this problem,” he said.
“A politician has come to Van and has come to Diyarbakır. They say things that would please Kurds. But then, they go to Trabzon, Edirne, and talk totally differently. At one place, they disregard nationalism, but in another place they say totally different things,” he said.
İnce said the place for the solution should be parliament and pledged to form a commission with all political parties in the parliament with equal representation regardless of their number of seats. “We will discuss the issue freely on [state-run] TRT in front of everyone. Eighty-one million people will know what we are doing. There will not be any secret meeting, everything will be in front of the people,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Turkish military is waiting for the right time to carry out an operation in northern Iraq’s mountainous Qandil region, where high-ranking members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) are hiding, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Monday.
“Qandil is no longer a distant target for us. Right now a lot of positions have been seized there by Turkish forces, especially in the northern Iraq region,” Soylu told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency in a televised interview. “Timing is what is important for us right now. … Qandil will be made a safe place for Turkey, no one should doubt that,” he added.
The militant group frequently carries out attacks on Turkey from its camps in the Qandil Mountains, a remote region of Kurdish-run northern Iraq. In response, Turkey has been conducting land operations inside northern Iraq territory near the border since March. Turkey has also conducted frequent air strikes against PKK targets in northern Iraq. It previously carried out cross-border operations in the region in the 1990s and 2000s.
In addition, dozens of members of Turkey’s largest pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are in jail on terror charges. They include the party’s former chairpersons Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, who have been in pretrial detention on terror charges since November 2016.
Demirtaş is also the HDP’s presidential candidate for the June 24 presidential election. The AKP’s presidential candidate is Erdoğan.
HDP’S ELECTION CAMPAIGN SUBJECTED TO 22 ATTACKS IN 35 DAYS
According to a report from the HDP, the party as of June 3 had been the subject of 22 attacks since the launch of its election campaign for the June 24 presidential and general elections, the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Monday.
Turkey will hold early presidential and general elections on June 24, and the political parties began campaigning on April 28. The HDP has been subjected to the highest number of attacks, with its officials also exposed to judicial harassment during this period.
According to a report drafted by the party, HDP campaign booths and stands as well offices were attacked 10 times in Ankara, six in İstanbul, two in İzmir and Antalya and one time each in Hatay and Edirne. In the same period, 136 party officials have been detained, 14 of whom have been arrested.
The party’s presidential candidate, Selahattin Demirtaş, has been in pretrial detention since November 2016. He has not been released from prison despite calls suggesting that Demirtaş should be temporarily freed so that the elections can be held in a fair and equal environment for all candidates.
In the meantime, İYİ Party and Felicity Party (SP) campaign booths have also been attacked several times since the beginning of the election campaign. (SCF with turkishminute.com)