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: “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.
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.