Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan flahes four finger rabia sign on May 29, 2018 in Istanbul during an electoral meeting presentating candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Photo: Ozan Kose / AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the frontrunner in June 24’s presidential election, has promised the people of Diyarbakir, a Kurdish city in the south of the country, he will turn the province into a tourist destination by providing services and improving infrastructure.
In a rally in the city on Sunday, Erdogan said his government has never discriminated against the Kurdish people of Turkey, insisting it has led a policy of “positive discrimination” by heavily focusing on Kurdish areas.
Kurds were “ignored” before his era, he said.
Erdogan praised his government’s treatment of the Kurds and promised to “face anyone who violates the rights of Kurds,” adding that he will make the city “a place of tranquility.”
“We will not say that there are no Kurds … but that there is not a Kurdish issue … the Kurdish language is as honorable as the Turkish … Your mother-tongue is as halal as your mother’s milk,” he said.
The AKP leader accused the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) of failing to serve the province. Although the HDP has consistently won the majority of votes in the city in provincial elections, Erdogan claimed conditions have only improved and more service have been provided since his government assigned trustees.
The trustees function like governors who have replaced elected officials expelled or jailed by the government for various charges, mostly terror-related.
The AKP candidate told supporters the city has become an Istanbul or Izmir for the Kurdish provinces in Turkey. The two provinces are popular tourist destinations.
“We have not marginalized Diyarbakir. We have said it is our soul and love, and that we would revive it. Thanks to God, because of our investment, Diyarbakir is becoming the Istanbul and Izmir of the east and southeast,” he said.
Building fast railway links, dams, creating a national park, and building 350 stone houses in Diyarbakir are among the services Erdogan has promised for the city.
He particularly highlighted Silvan dam, which he says will help agriculture in the region. Seven dams are under construction.
Turkey has launched the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) in the Kurdish provinces in a bid to raise incomes and living standards.
“We have revived Diyarbakir, which is one of the most important provinces located in the range of GAP, through our irrigation projects,” Erdogan said.
Iraq and Syria have recently seen a drop in water resources. Turkish dam projects have been blamed, claims Turkey denies.