Today’s Zaman – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has been criticized recently for emphasizing the religious and ethnic backgrounds of his political rivals, has made potentially offensive remarks concerning people of Georgian and Armenian descent.
In televised remarks on Tuesday, Erdoğan repeated previous statements he had made about the backgrounds of Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) leader and presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş. Erdoğan had earlier said, “Kılıçdaroğlu, you are an Alevi and I am Sunni. You should state this openly. Demirtaş, you are Zaza. Don’t be worried about speaking out about this.” In response to a question posed during a joint broadcast of Star TV and NTV regarding the negative reaction these words have drawn, Erdoğan said: “Let all Turks in Turkey say they are Turks and all Kurds say they are Kurds. What is wrong with that? You wouldn’t believe the things they have said about me. They have said I am Georgian. …they have said even uglier things — they have called me Armenian, but I am Turkish.”
Reactions to Erdoğan’s words describing being Armenian as “uglier” than being Georgian has found rapid and angry backlash.
CHP deputy Hurşit Güneş filed a criminal complaint against Erdoğan on Wednesday. Güneş announced his plan to take legal action on his Twitter account, saying Erdoğan had violated Article 10 of the Constitution and Articles 122 and 216 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) against discrimination.
In remarks to show his reaction, Güneş said: “Look at this disgrace. Erdoğan said being Armenian is ugly on NTV. What a shame! Calling a person Armenian, even if it is untrue, is not “ugly”. Seeing this as such is a low form of racism! Erdoğan doesn’t hear what he says. If he becomes president, Turkey will not have only chosen a tyrant, but at the same time a racist.” He also appealed to Turkey’s citizens of Armenian descent not to be offended. “His mind isn’t in the right place,” he said, adding: “The world should know this is a racist person. He has defined the claim that he is Armenian as ‘ugly’ slander. His name is Tayyip Erdoğan.”
He also said Erdoğan’s mentality was what caused the death of journalist Hrant Dink, who was assassinated by an ultra-nationalist teenager in 2007.
Shortly after announcing his intention on Twitter to file a criminal complaint, Hurşit Güneş went to the Ankara Courthouse and did so.