Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stirred up a heated debate after he advised a new AKP member’s wife “to have more children as a career” at his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) parliamentary group meeting on October 19.
“The career of this business is to have children. The child is very important. Look, the PKK (outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party) has 5, 10, 15 children,” Erdoğan said to Mehmet Ali Çelebi’s wife during a badge-pinning ceremony at the AKP’s parliamentary group meeting.
The president was speaking to Kezban Merey Çelebi, wife of Mehmet Ali Çelebi who recently became a member of the ruling party with a contraversial statement as he was elected as a parliamentary member from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). He had first resigned from CHP, joined an opposition party Motherland Party, formed by dissident CHP members.
During the ceremony, Erdoğan asked Çelebi how many children he has. Çelebi said he has one child; pointing to his wife, he added, “She is doing her PhD. It is difficult with a career.”
Erdoğan turned to Kezban Merey Çelebi and said, “The career of this business is to have children.”
His words prompted a great reaction as one group criticised him for reducing women’s role in society to childbirth, while another group focused on his example, arguing that Erdoğan “is identifying Kurds with the outlawed PKK” and reiterating discriminatory rhetoric.
Female politicians react: “Shameful, audacity”
İYİ Party’s leader Meral Akşener criticised Erdoğan harshly on women’s rights perspective, stating that his words are “shameful.”
“Turkish women are again becoming the target and subject of hatred. This 27-second was the most shameful of the 20 years of disgrace we witnessed. The mentality that sees women’s function as to bear children is out of date,” she said.
Another female politician that criticised Erdoğan on women’s perspectives was Kurdish-issue-focused People’s Democracy Party (HDP) parliamentary chair Meral Danış Beştaş.
“I condemn the audacity of blaspheming women’s bodies and reproductive rights,” she said, adding that the president’s words are a statement aimed at “nationalist circles within the ruling party.”
“Those who regard Kurds within the framework of demographic engineering should reconsider their outlook. It is not possible to understand why a president interferes with the number of children. They see reproduction as an act of terrorism. This is a racist mentality,” she added.
Opposition leaders: “Racist”
Future Party Leader Ahmet Davutoğlu also criticised Erdoğan’s words as “racist,” adding that the president’s statements were “disrespectful of human rights and women’s rights.”
“Since the children of this country were not born in Qandil (Iraq, where the PKK headquarters are located), your point is clear, Mr. Erdogan! Your statements are disrespectful to human rights and women’s rights. Every child born in this country is an honourable citizen of the Republic of Turkey. It is racist to discriminate against children!” Davutoğlu said
DEVA Party Chairman Ali Babacan said that the president’s words amount to “accusing millions of Kurdish citizens of terrorism” by identifying Kurds with the outlawed PKK.
“He tells every woman he sees how many children they should have. He knows that the PKK did not give birth to five to ten children in the mountains, but he accuses millions of our Kurdish citizens of terrorism. It’s a shame,” he said.
Future Party Spokesperson Serkan Özcan stated that Erdoğan’s words are “insulting to the Kurds.”
“Until now, Kurds have been insulted a lot. But such racist and inhumane words have never been heard from the mouth of a President. “