Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Kurd-friendly opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) of using the “top minds” of both Barack Obama presidential campaigns to spread “lies” intended to win them parliamentary seats in Sunday’s election.
In a statement to Kanal 24 News Thursday, Erdogan, the head of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), claimed the HDP had hired President Obama’s “top minds.”He claimed, “You know the party’s campaign management is headed by Obama’s campaign team,” adding, “They came together in Istanbul. This meeting brought together a group of well known media.”
“In these elections, the campaign management of a certain party is run by the team that managed Mr. Obama’s campaign,” he argued. He added that the campaign team of this “certain party” has told them to “always use lies, always use insults because when a lie is constantly used, it eventually turns to truth.” He continued, “This is the campaigning mind, the master mind,” he added.
Selahattin Demirtaş, the head of the HDP, has responded by tweeting a lament at President Obama that he was never in on the conspiracy between them. “If this is true, why did you not tell me, ‘zalım’?” Hurriyet translates “zalim” as a word used “colloquially when somebody wants to voice bitter feelings toward a friendly person.” Rudaw, a Kurdish outlet, translates the word as “tyrant.”
— Selahattin Demirtaş (@hdpdemirtas) October 28, 2015
Demirtaş has since said he has yet to hear from President Obama over his tweet, telling Turkish media, “We do not need anyone’s mind. We do not need any external power. We are a party working with the core power of the people.”
There is no evidence that President Obama is working to promote the HDP in Turkey. While the HDP is considered a leftist party for attracting environmentalists and Kurds friendly to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Marxist terrorist group, its opposition to Erdogan’s Islamist party has also made it attractive to others who would not regularly align with leftist causes but feel the AKP has become too totalitarian in cracking down on opposition voices and imposing Islam in schools and culture. Building this coalition grew the HDP to such a size that the 12 percent of the vote it garnered in the June parliamentary elections are largely credited for taking away the AKP’s majority, forcing Turks to return to the polls on Sunday. As proof of the party’s diversity, among the newly elected HDP MPs were four Christians and two Yazidis.
While Demirtaş has denied any ties to President Obama, he has routinely been compared to the American President, as well as to leftist Greek PM Alexis Tsipras. At 42 years old, Demirtaş is young for a party leader, and is considered to wield charisma rivaling Erdogan. He has used it most recently to galvanize Kurds and minorities against Erdogan, calling the AKP government “murderers” for failing to stop the October 10 suicide bombings in Ankara. As a result, AKP supporters have labeled him irresponsible, Erdogan previously derided him as an “infidel,” and Islamist media accused him of eating pork.
Antagonism towards the HDP has resulted in a string of attacks on the party’s offices in recent months. Demirtaş claimed that there had been up to 400 attacks on HDP offices and party members between September 7th and September 9th.
It was later revealed that the Ankara bombers, who targeted a peace rally consisting mostly of leftist Kurds, had originally intended to bomb an HDP office.
Attacking President Obama for having alleged ties to the HDP is a new tactic for Erdogan, one following a threat to attack U.S.-friendly Kurdish militias in Syria should they travel west of the Euphrates River. “This was a warning. ‘Pull yourself together. If you try to do this elsewhere–Turkey doesn’t need permission from anyone–we will do what is necessary,’” Erdogan said of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG and YPJ) forces on Wednesday. He also mocked Western powers for aiding the YPG: “They don’t even accept the PYD [Kurdish Democratic Union Party] as a terrorist organization. What kind of nonsense is this?”
The United States and Turkey are currently cooperating on airstrikes against the Islamic State, and American planes are using a Turkish airbase from which to plan and execute attacks.