Criminal Case Filed against Erdogan for Racist Comments as He Wins Election

ANKARA (Today’s Zaman, Wall Street Journal) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been criticized recently for emphasizing the religious and ethnic backgrounds of his political rivals, made offensive remarks concerning people of Georgian and Armenian descent.

During a live interview on the private NTV channel last week, Erdogan complained that the opposition was carrying out a smear campaign against him by claiming that he was from another ethnic origin.

“They called me a Georgian. Pardon me for saying this, but they said even uglier things: They called me an Armenian!” Erdogan said.

“As far as I have learned from my father and grandfather, I am a Turk,” he added.

His comment that it was ugly to be called an Armenian drew anger on social media, further inflaming tensions days ahead of Sunday’s presidential election where Erdogan is hot favorite to become head of state.

Erdogan’s comments have found rapid and angry backlash.

CHP deputy Hursit Günes filed a criminal complaint against Erdogan on Wednesday. Günes announced his plan to take legal action on his Twitter account, saying Erdogan had violated Article 10 of the Constitution and Articles 122 and 216 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) against discrimination.

In remarks to show his reaction, Günes said: “Look at this disgrace. Erdogan said being Armenian is ugly on NTV. What a shame! Calling a person Armenian, even if it is untrue, is not “ugly.” Seeing this as such is a low form of racism! Erdogan doesn’t hear what he says. If he becomes president, Turkey will not have only chosen a tyrant, but at the same time a racist.” He also appealed to Turkey’s citizens of Armenian descent not to be offended. “His mind isn’t in the right place,” he said, adding: “The world should know this is a racist person. He has defined the claim that he is Armenian as ‘ugly’ slander. His name is Tayyip Erdogan.”

He also said Erdogan’s mentality was what caused the death of journalist Hrant Dink, who was assassinated by an ultra-nationalist teenager in 2007.

Shortly after announcing his intention on Twitter to file a criminal complaint, Hursit Günes went to the Ankara Courthouse and did so.

Erdogan swept to a landslide victory in Turkey’s first direct presidential election on August 10, extending his 12-year grip on power and securing a mandate to fulfill his pledge of creating a “new Turkey.”

The country’s election board announced Erdogan had won according to preliminary results, obtaining enough votes to avoid a runoff. With 99 percent of the ballots counted, the premier had secured 52 percent, far ahead of his nearest opponent Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a diplomat with a low profile in domestic politics who garnered 38 percent of the vote, according to state-run Anadolu news agency.

In a victory speech to thousands of flag-waving supporters at his governing Justice and Development Party’s Ankara headquarters, Erdogan called for societal reconciliation after a brutal campaign that was widely seen as hardening divisions across the country. But he also warned his political enemies against undermining Turkish security.