PRESIDENT ERDOGAN SAYS TURKEY NEVER HAD A KURDISH PROBLEM
Today’s Zaman, Turkey
March 16 2015
President Recep Tayyip ErdoÃ°an speaks in BalÃ½kesir province on Sunday
where he traveled to attend a series of ceremonies. (Photo: DHA)
March 15, 2015, Sunday/ 18:18:47/ TODAY’S ZAMAN / ISTANBUL
In a sharp deviation from his remarks in a historic speech he gave
in the southeastern province of DiyarbakÃ½r in 2005 which, for the
first time, acknowledged the existence of a Kurdish problem in Turkey,
President Recep Tayyip ErdoÃ°an has now said Turkey never had a Kurdish
problem, noting that Kurds enjoy all the rights and everything else
enjoyed by Turks.
“My brothers, there has never been any problem called the Kurdish
issue in this country. Yet, there are intentional efforts to keep
this on the agenda. … We ended it [the problem] in a speech I made
in DiyarbakÃ½r in 2005 and that is it. My Kurdish citizens could have
problems. They could have problems just like the problems of Turkish
citizens. Thirty-six ethnic groups in the country have their own
problems. There is constant talk about the Kurdish problem. Turkey
has been kept busy with this for years — 40,000 people have been
killed in this country for this reason,” he said.
ErdoÃ°an’s statements came in BalÃ½kesir province on Sunday where he
traveled to attend a series of ceremonies.
“Now, when you take a look at them, they keep talking about a Kurdish
problem. What are you talking about, brother? What Kurdish problem. …
What have you not got? Did you have a president [of Kurdish
background], did you have a prime minister [of Kurdish background],
did you have ministers [of Kurdish background]? Yes, you did. Do you
have [Kurds] in the bureaucracy, in the TSK [Turkish Armed Forces
(TSK)]? Yes. What else do you want? For God’s sake, what don’t you
have that we do, you have everything,” ErdoÃ°an told Kurds.
In a speech he delivered on Aug. 12, 2005, ErdoÃ°an, who was the prime
minister at the time, had acknowledged for the first time, on behalf
of the Turkish state, that Turkey had a problem often referred to as
the Kurdish issue. He had pledged that Turkey would seek to resolve
the issue through peaceful and democratic means. “The Kurdish issue
is the issue of the entire Turkish nation. We will solve it through
more democracy and greater welfare,” he said then.
On Sunday, ErdoÃ°an also noted that the government has built roads and
airports in the country’s predominantly Kurdish Southeast for Kurds
who have long complained about a lack of state services, but added
that it has faced obstructions, which he implicitly attributed to
the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“They [the PKK] burn down the equipment of businessmen, contractors.
Why do you do that? We constructed one [airport] in IÃ°dÃ½r, one in AÃ°rÃ½,
one in Kars. Has this state discriminated against you? My brothers,
they have a different agenda. We eliminated policies of rejection
[of Kurds]. We eliminated assimilation policies because we said this,
we said we love the created on the Creator’s behalf, and we will do
so,” added ErdoÃ°an.
ErdoÃ°an said every ethnic group in Turkey has its problems peculiar
to them, but some people are playing a political game with their
insistence on the existence of a larger Kurdish problem in the country.
“I also told this to my Roma sisters and brothers yesterday
[Saturday]. Turks have problems, too; Roma people have problems, too.
Bosnian people have problems, too; Laz people have problems, too;
they all have problems.”
In another speech in Canakkale province on Saturday, ErdoÃ°an said
people appearing on TV and talking about a Kurdish problem in the
country are aiming to divide Turkey.
He said some people are making deliberate efforts for the continuation
of the Kurdish problem to provide grounds for some to launch Molotov
cocktail attacks and stir up unrest in the country.
“There is no problem in our country stemming from their [Kurds’]
ethnicity,” ErdoÃ°an said in Canakkale.
Turkey’s Kurdish question has existed since the first years of the
republic, but it turned violent in 1984 after the establishment of
the PKK. More than 40,000 civilians and security forces have been
killed in clashes so far.
In an attempt to solve the decades-old Kurdish and terrorism problems,
the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government launched talks
with imprisoned Kurdistan PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan in late 2012.
Despite widespread suspicions about the content of the talks,
the government believes the settlement process will help urge PKK
members to withdraw from Turkey and thus put an end to the country’s
PKK terrorism problem.
ErdoÃ°an’s remarks found contradictory
The president’s statements have raised eyebrows among the politicians
of the opposition parties who have accused ErdoÃ°an of adopting the
attitude of a “hypocrite” in order to shape public perception.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman
Sezgin TanrÃ½kulu has said ErdoÃ°an is constantly denying his earlier
statements, as well as AK Party policies and the statements of AK
“Then one would ask him why there is an ongoing [settlement] process
if there is no [Kurdish] problem?” TanrÃ½kulu said.
According to the CHP official, ErdoÃ°an wants to create the perception
that he is the only solution to all problems and that he has eliminated
all the problems in the country. “He means to say, ‘Now, embrace
me as a savior. Give 400 deputies [to the AK Party] and make me the
president [under a switch to a presidential system]. I will eradicate
all the problems.’ He has an understanding which has nothing to do
with solving a problem,” explained TanrÃ½kulu.
ErdoÃ°an, who was elected to the presidency in August, is a strong
supporter of a presidential system. He did not hide his aspiration to
become the first president elected under a presidential system. Turkey
currently has a parliamentary system. Although while president ErdoÃ°an
is required to be impartial, according to the Constitution, he asks
the nation to support the ruling AK Party, ErdoÃ°an’s former party,
so that it can win 400 seats in Parliament, giving the AK Party the
numerical majority to press ahead with changing to Constitution and
switching to a presidential system.
Hasip Kaplan, a pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), deputy
has described ErdoÃ°an’s statements about a Kurdish problem no longer
existing in the country as “incomprehensible” and “inconsistent.”
“Every citizen of this country has problems being an equal citizen.
Kurdish citizens have a problem enjoying the same rights as Turkish
citizens. The [Kurdish] problem will continue to exist until these
legal and constitutional rights are maintained,” Kaplan told Today’s
Since the AK Party government came to power in 2002, some steps have
been taken to expand the cultural and political rights of the Kurds,
but they are said to be insufficient.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy group chairman Yusuf
HalacoÃ°lu also accused ErdoÃ°an of hypocrisy because he and the AK
Party government are negotiating with the PKK on the one hand, and
then he says there is no Kurdish problem in Turkey.
“Then, why are sitting around a table with the PKK, why are you making
concession after concession? Which problems are you talking about with
the terrorist organization, which you failed to convince to lay down
their weapons, what bargain are you making? If the PKK does not have
any connection with the Kurds, with what does it have a connection?
Who is Ocalan? If he is not Kurdish, what [is he]? Are you holding
talks about the Armenian issue in ÃmralÃ½ [the island on the Sea of
Marmara where Ocalan is jailed]” he asked.
HalacoÃ°lu also said conflicting statements from ErdoÃ°an and the AK
Party government are aimed at confusing the public and shaping public
perception in their favor.
“They have the ignorant belief that the nation will not understand the
contradiction in their policies. Our nation will show them on June 7
that it fully understands everything,” said HalacoÃ°lu, referring to
the date when Turkey will hold parliamentary elections.
DiyarbakÃ½r Mayor Gultan KÃ½Ã¾anak also reacted to ErdoÃ°an’s statements
“It is correct. There is not a Kurdish problem in Turkey anymore.
Kurds have become a fundamental force and dynamic of democracy. There
are bad administrators resisting this,” she said, adding that the
real problem in Turkey is administrators who do not think sufficiently
democratically, pluralistically and in favor of the people.
But KÃ½Ã¾anak also said Kurds still lack many rights, in particular,
education in their mother tongue.
The use of languages other than Turkish in the public education system
has long been debated in Turkey. The HDP and its predecessors have
been calling for the right to an education in one’s mother tongue
for a long time, while the majority of Parliament opposes it.