Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan resorted to discriminatory language when criticizing the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) during a speech at the Union of International Democrats (UID) Women’s and Youth Committee, Turkish media reported.
“We are sorry to see that although the opposition has a Turkish identity, they are resorting to the methods of the infidel in attacking us [the government] under the guise of criticism,” he said. The word used by Erdoğan, “gavur,” which translates as infidel, is often employed as a religious and ethnic slur against non-Muslims and non-Turks. It also insinuates barbarity, and opposition politicians accused Erdoğan of hate speech by using the word.
During the speech Erdoğan accused Western politicians of fueling Islamophobia. “They [Europe] cannot accept Islam. They do not want to see how far Turkish migrants have come since the 1960s,” he said.
According to Erdoğan, Western politicians have been targeting Muslims and particularly him in an attempt to mask their own failures in their own domestic and foreign policies. He accused the Turkish opposition of being part of this “insidious plot” by voicing the opinions of Western politicians in its criticism of his government.
“The CHP has taken part in anti-Turkey campaigns by repeating lies and slanders,” he said.
Garo Paylan, a member of parliament of Armenian descent from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), criticized Erdoğan on social media for using the word “gavur” (infidel), saying: “You use this hate expression knowing there are citizens who have been victims of hate crimes fed with the slur of ‘gavur’ for generations. Shame on you!”
Emphasizing that Erdoğan had engaged in hate speech, Paylan asked if Erdogan would apologize during his speech in parliament today. “As an Armenian who has been subjected to hate speech with the word gavur many times, I want it to be known that it is unacceptable for the president to use this word,” he said.
Hate speech has been on the rise in Turkey in the recent years. Christian minorities have especially been targeted in the media according to a report published by the Hrant Dink Foundation.