Istanbul, May 26 () - President Tayyip Erdoğan joined Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in another grand airport opening, this time in the predominantly Kurdish-populated southeastern Anatolian province of Hakkari, issuing strong criticisms against the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
The two men were together in Hakkari’s Yüksekova district for the opening of the Selahattin Eyyubi Airport, only a few days after the opening of the Ordu-Giresun Airport, despite the opposition parties’ strong criticisms as well as warnings by the OSCE’s election monitoring team that Erdoğan is overstepping his powers.
“The opening of this airport was delayed two years as it was attacked 99 times during construction. We were to open the airport two years but we couldn’t,” Erdoğan said, blaming the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for the delay. “They did everything to stop it. Why? Because they do not love my Kurdish brothers. We don’t love our Kurdish brothers because they are Kurds. We love them because the same God that created me created them as well” he said.
Criticizing the HDP, which is focused on the Kurdish issue, for being an offshoot of the PKK and for forcing people to vote for them, Erdoğan also reiterated that the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) had printed the Quran in Kurdish to address the needs of Kurds.
Davutoğlu, for his part, stressed that his government wanted to create an environment of brotherhood and unity in the country, leading them to name the airport after Selahattin Eyyubi (Saladin), the Kurdish founder of the Eyyubi dynasty in the 12th century and known as the Conqueror of Jerusalem.
“I wanted to hold my first election campaign in Hakkari but delayed it to today so that the airport will be ready for the official opening. So I decided to hold it today and to give this airport as a present to you” he said. With the latest airport in Yüksekova, the number of airports nationwide has reached 55.
With Erdoğan’s intensifying public rallies during which he has indirectly called on people to vote for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), opposition parties have queued at the door of the Supreme Election Board (YSK) to demand a halt to presidential rallies. But the election watchdog rejected all appeals on the basis that it has no authority to oversee presidential activities.
Opposition parties stressed that Erdoğan’s speeches have led to an unfair electoral competition. Davutoğlu is also continuing with a carefully planned campaign in which his speeches generally start after or before Erdoğan’s, in order to ensure that Turkish TV networks broadcast both of them, according to the opposition.
In April, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) highlighted concerns over Erdoğan’s “active role in the campaign” recommending the deployment of a team in order to observe the fairness of the election.
Along with opposition parties, Erdoğan frequently also slams independent media with the Doğan Media Group and daily Hürriyet coming at the top of his list of targets, causing international reaction against the president.
“Mr. Erdoğan has a long history of intimidating and co-opting the Turkish media, but new alarms were set off this week when criminal complaints were filed against editors of Hürriyet and its website over a headline Mr. Erdoğan had objected to” an editorial of the New York Times said May 22.
“While the country has faced tough political campaigns before, this one is especially vicious and the mood seems unusually dark and fearful. Mr. Erdoğan appears increasingly hostile to truth-telling. The United States and Turkey’s other NATO allies should be urging him to turn away from this destructive path” the editorial said.
Erdoğan duly slammed the New York Times editorial as “shameless,” calling on the U.S. daily to “know its place.” “Who are you? Can you write such a thing [writing a critical editorial] against the U.S. administration? If you do, [the administration] would immediately do what is necessary” Erdoğan said during a panel organized by a think tank in Istanbul on May 25.