Turkey's Prime Minister and presidential candidate Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses his supporters during a massive election rally in Istanbul, Aug. 3. REUTERS Photo / Murad Sezer
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
has sparked a fresh debate while trying to defend himself for labeling his opponents according to their minority religious or ethnic identity.
“They have also said a lot of things about me. One of them came and said I was a Georgian. Then another came up and, I beg your pardon, called me uglier things, saying I was Armenian,” Erdoğan said during a live interview on Aug. 5, adding that he was a purebred Turk.
“What I have learned from my grandfather, my father and all of them is that I am Turkish. That’s it,” he said in remarks that have caused great controversy.
The Turkish prime minister has repeated several times during his campaign that main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
is an Alevi, Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) candidate Selahattin Demirtaş is a Zaza-origin Kurd, and the CHP
and other parties’ candidate Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu is “not even a native” for being born in Egypt, albeit to Turkish parents.
During his speeches, Erdoğan has consistently reminded the nation’s populace that he is a “Sunni.”
His comments triggered accusations of sectarianism, causing a backlash on social media and prompting the left-leaning daily BirGün to bitingly respond with the front-page headline: “Kılıçdaroğlu is Alevi, Demirtaş is Zaza, İhsanoğlu is Egyptian and you are a thief.”
But Erdoğan argued during his interview that no one should hesitate to unveil his identity.
“Let everyone say what he is. An Alevi
citizen can come to me and say, ‘I am Alevi,’ without any problem. Why it is considered discrimination when Sunnis say ‘I am Sunni.’ Kurds could not say so for years. Can’t now my Kurdish brother say, ‘I am a Kurd?’ So let the Turks say, ‘I am a Turk,’” Erdoğan said.