Erdogan says Şirnak is as developed as other provinces, overlooking years of clashes, neglect

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that the Kurdish-majority southeastern province of Şirnak has the same advantages as the other 80 provinces.

“What exists in Turkey’s 80 other provinces in the name of democracy, rights and freedoms exists here,” Erdogan said during a congress of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Şirnak on October 18.

“We serve on the basis of democracy and development for everyone. We have been doing in Şirnak whatever we have been doing for Turkey’s development since we came to power,” he added.

Since the foundation of the Turkish Republic, Kurdish-majority cities were left undeveloped at the hands of the state. Şirnak is one of those provinces, which borders Iraq and Syria, and has been the site of fierce clashes between the army and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

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In addition to poverty in the said provinces, reports of human rights abuses have been increasing especially in the recent years.

Most recently in 2015, the province’s Cizre district was nearly destroyed during the army operations against the PKK. Hundreds of people were displaced during the operations in the southeast.

Pressure on the use of Kurdish has also been increasing, with government appointed trustees removing Kurdish signs or banning the use of the language in various areas of life.

While Erdogan and the AKP claim that the same advantages and opportunities were provided to the southeastern provinces, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) gains majority of the votes in nearly all provinces and districts in the region.

During his speech on October 18, Erdogan said that it is his duty to hold those making discrimination regarding democracy and development to account, although the government keeps on appointing trustees regardless of the votes of the people in the region.

Reporter’s code: 50101

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