Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed that "there is no Kurdish issue" in his country and accused an imprisoned Kurdish political leader of supporting and defending "terrorism". Selahatting Demirtas, said Erdogan, has the "blood of thousands of Kurds on his hands."
Erdogan's comments came after former Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc urged the release of Demirtas as well as jailed businessman Osman Kavala. The president condemned Arinc's suggestion, as well as his encouragement to read Demirtas's book, which he claimed would inform people about the Kurdish issue within the country.
"It offended me that he suggested everyone read the book written by a terrorist," said Erdogan. He maintained his position that Turkey's Kurds share the same rights and opportunities as all other Turkish citizens.
Arinc, a founder of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) two decades ago, resigned from the Presidential High Advisory Board after Erdogan's condemnation.
Demirtas, who led the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) from 2014 to 2018, was arrested in 2016 along with his co-leader and 10 HDP parliamentarians. Demirtas faces charges of allegedly sympathising with and supporting the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a designated terrorist group in Turkey and elsewhere.
Critics of Erdogan, however, claim that he is trying to crack down on political opposition within the country. The Turkish leader has renewed his assurances that structural reforms will be implemented to benefit Turkey's economy and democratic governance, which resulted in the stability of the Turkish lira, for which he has been praised by many.
After President Erdogan's continued refusal to release Demirtas and Kavala while doubling down on his stance, there are now questions about whether those reforms will truly make a change.