Turkey’s interior minister told a rally of supporters that the Turks were the grandchildren of a great civilization, adding “we are not just Turkey,” and referring to other cities and countries in the Arab world, as he made a campaign stop in the southeastern Kurdish city of Diyarbakir to shore up support for the Justice and Development Party (AK) ahead of local elections later this month.
“We are not only just Turkey, but also Damascus, Aleppo, Kirkuk, Jerusalem, Palestine, Mecca, and Medina,” said Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu during a rally in Diyarbakir city, according to a video and translation posted on Twitter by the Nordic Monitor.
“We are the grandchildren of a great civilization,” the interior minister added in his rally speech.
Diyarbakir is the largest city in Turkey’s southeast, where Kurdish PKK militants have fought an insurgency for more than three decades to press demands for Kurdish autonomy. Violence has flared since a ceasefire collapsed in July 2015.
According to Turkish Anadolu Agency, Soylu was speaking to supporters during a visit to the city’s police headquarters.
During the rally, Soylu also spoke on the cyber capabilities of Turkey’s police force.
“The cyber capabilities of the Turkish police force are second to none in the world,” he was quoted as saying by Anadolu Agency.
Upcoming local elections
AK Party officials have been increasing their campaign visits to Kurdish cities ahead of local elections on March 31.
Last October, 90 people were arrested over suspected links to PKK, with the main pro-Kurdish party decrying the arrests as a politically motivated crackdown.
The autonomy-seeking PKK, deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and Europe, has waged an insurgency against the state since 1984. Violence across the southeast escalated after the collapse of a ceasefire in 2015.
Ninety-four of 102 municipalities in Kurdish-majority cities and towns are now administered by trustees, rather than their elected mayors. Authorities removed those mayors, elected in the last municipal elections in 2014, in the security crackdown that followed an attempted military coup in 2016.
Among those removed included Gultan Kisanak, a former member of parliament before her election as mayor in Diyarbakir, and Firat Anli, her co-mayor. They were taken into custody as part of an investigation into terror links.
- With Reuters