Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s controversial remarks on Friday about birth rates in Turkey in which he urged “Muslim” women to deliver more babies because “the terrorists” were bearing at least “10 to 15 children” draws ire from opposition circles in the country.
According to a report by online news outlet Kurdistan24 on Saturday, Erdogan’s remarks have been interpreted as not targeting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which bars its militants from any sexual or marital relations, but the Kurdish population in Turkey given the annual fertility rates per province.
“What do our god and prophet say? The order is pretty clear. Get married and reproduce. It is imperative that Muslims reproduce. I trust Muslim women’s sensitivity on this issue,” he told a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in İstanbul. “The terrorist group in Turkey is very sensitive on this. They have at least 10 to 15 children,” Erdoğan said, without specifying which group he meant in his televised speech.
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy chairman Mehmet Bekaroğlu questioned Erdoğan’s words and said in his Twitter account that “He is not talking about the Kurds but the terrorists. Is that so? Have the terrorists laid down weapons and started making babies? Is this where we have come? President is saying Kurds are giving birth to too many babies, you do the same.”
According to Turkish Statistical Institute, the first ten provinces with the highest total fertility rates in 2016 were Kurdish-dominated ones, among them Şanlıurfa, Ağrı, Siirt, Şırnak, Muş, Bitlis, Mardin, Van, Diyarbakır and Batman. With a total fertility rate of 4,33, Şanlıurfa was twice the national average which stood at 2,10 while the other Kurdish-dominated provinces making to top ten were all above 3,10.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen has also criticised President Erdoğan and called his comments as “fascism.” “How are the conservative Kurds going to interpret this,” he asked, pointing out to the fact that Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) received significant electoral support from Kurds who prioritize their Muslim identity over a national cause.
HDP’s Co-leader Serpil Kemalbay accused Erdoğan of enmity toward the Kurdish people and described his rhetoric as racist. “He is saying if you call yourself Kurdish then you are not Muslim. This is a poisonous, provocative language. We have to stand up to politicians who otherize,” she told a public rally in Diyarbakır.
Erdoğan earlier this year called on millions-strong Turkish diaspora in European countries to have five children and not “at least three” as he has been urging since 2008.