Istanbul, Aug 14 () - President Tayyip Erdoğan’s call for local “muhtars” across Turkey to collect intelligence on people in their area as part of the struggle against terrorism has infuriated the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which accused the president of taking yet another step aimed at creating polarization between citizens.
Speaking on Aug. 12, Erdoğan vowed that there would be “no concessions” in Turkey’s relentless offensive against militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“Since 2013, the terrorist organization has displayed its will for fortification by distracting this state and this government, instead of burying its weapons and removing its militants beyond our borders. Now, by continuing with even more vigorous operations, the state will reveal what is and what is not in which house by any means necessary, along with the intelligence services. I am expecting support from our muhtars on this issue” he said in an address to local muhtars invited to the presidential palace in Ankara.
“In a convenient and calm way, my muhtar will inform the sub-governor - or if necessary the governor or the police chief - about who lives in which house, who this person is and who they are not. We will join forces, we will be in solidarity” Erdoğan added.
However, HDP Deputy Chair Saruhan Oluç has slammed Erdoğan’s call, describing it as an attempt to strengthen “the tendency to act as an informer in society.”
“Acting as an informer is not among the duties of muhtars. Muhtars are not an extension of security institutions either” Oluç said on Aug. 13 in a written statement headed “Muhtars are not the ruling party’s spies.”
“At the same time, this call by the president to destroy local democracy … With these statements, President Erdoğan is continuing to create distrust, polarization, tension and discord among citizens” he added.
“It is meaningful that people elected in neighborhoods are called ‘muhtars,’ because ‘muhtar’ means ‘autonomous-independent.’ With this appeal, the president has bulldozed through this meaning” Oluç stated.
A word of Arabic-origin, “mukhtar” refers to leader of a village or neighborhood, usually chosen or approved by consensus.
The gathering with around 400 muhtars from four corners of the country was the eighth such meeting held by Erdoğan and hosted at his gargantuan and controversial presidential palace since late January. The president hosted around 400 muhtars at each of those eight meetings that were also held in the run-up to the June 7 parliamentary election.