Turkish political leaders debate ancestry on campaign trail
Monday, August 16, 2010
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

With the campaign ahead of next month’s constitutional reform referendum heating up, the debates between the two main leaders are taking an ever-more tangential turn, with the latest argument now centering on the politicians’ ancestries.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan created fresh controversy over the weekend at a party rally in the southeastern province of Gaziantep when he questioned the ancestry of his main political rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

Republican People’s Party, or CHP, leader Kılıçdaroğlu is from Tunceli, an eastern Anatolian province that is predominantly inhabited by Kurds and Alevis.

“Mr. Erdoğan has talked about my mother and my father. Now, in a speech in Gaziantep, he even questioned my kin,” Kılıçdaroğlu said Monday, adding that he was proud of his ancestry and his family.

“I have a suggestion to Mr. Recep. If he wants to learn about my family, then he can examine the state records. But if he is so curious about people’s ancestry, he may as well come and measure my skull. I would not mind it.”

Measuring skull was an old custom among ultra-nationalists to prove one’s roots of pure Turkishness.

The party leader continued to criticize Erdoğan’s manner, claiming that the prime minister looks into the cameras and reads off speech cards. “He is not sincere, and everyone knows this.”

Continuing, Kılıçdaroğlu said: “My request is that the prime minister does not resort to swearing. He blames me for falsely accusing him. It is not me who has accused him of being a fraud. It is the attorney general of this country who has done so.”

Kılıçdaroğlu said it was Erdoğan himself who signed the exact document from the attorney general and sent it to Parliament, meaning, according to the CHP leader, that the prime minister himself had read the document in which he is called a slanderer.

“Why does he blame me for such a thing?” asked Kılıçdaroğlu. “He should not have done things to provoke such comments. Now he plays the fool when I address these issues. But I will unmask him.”

In addition, the CHP leader said Sept. 12 was very soon, adding that a defeat of the referendum would pave the way for positive changes in Turkey.

“Justice will be restored,” he said. “A Turkey with a bright future will be ahead. We will keep telling the public the truth to reveal the indecent. A ‘no’ answer to the undutiful ones will pave the way for Turkey’s prosperity.’’