Turkey relocating extremist Islamists to Kurdish region: lawmaker

A leading lawmaker of Turkey’s opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has accused the government of changing the demographics in the country’s southeastern Kurdish region and relocating extremist Islamists to the area.

The Kurdish-issue focused HDP Van deputy Lezgin Botan told ANF news agency that Afghanis had been relocated to his constituency while Circassian and Gagauz Turkish-speaking people had been relocated to nearby Bitlis province.

“There are no older people, women or children amongst the refugees brought to Van. They are all between 20 and 30 years of age. Of course this makes the public think, ‘Are they people who fought or are going to be sent to Syria to fight?’ We don’t know whether they are going to be used in shady deals. Turkey is still supporting some extremist Islamist groups in Syria. The government needs to clarify this situation.”

Botan also criticised the government supported Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), a conservative organisation behind the relocations, also previously accused of aiding jihadist groups in Syria.

“This organisation doesn’t have a good record. It is not the UN Refugee Agency and doesn’t have any authority to be relocating the refugees to Van. They are building tent-villages for the people who have been brought here, but are these people going to go through the normal [asylum] procedure or are they just going to be given residency here.”

The HDP lawmaker concluded by claiming that it wasn’t a coincidence that the migrants were being brought to Kurdish areas.

“The aim is to play with and change the demographics. Unfortunately a very dangerous is being played. We are appealing to the government to put an end to these policies.”

Other leading Kurdish politicians in Turkey have also accused the government of moving extremist Islamists into Kurdish areas to weaken Kurdish presence.

In March HDP Mersin lawmaker Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat told Rudaw that the government planned to locate 200,000 Salafist Arabs into Diyarbakir’s historic Sur neighbourhood, which was destroyed in clashes between security forces and Kurdish militants in 2015 and early 2016.

According to records Turkey has enacted policies of forced displacement and relocation of Turkish-speaking peoples to Kurdish areas in the past, especially during the first years of the Republic. The ‘Eastern Reform Plan’ implemented from 1925 onwards was the first of its kind and aimed for the assimilation of Kurds, historians say.

Government officials have not commented on the claims of demographic change by opposition lawmakers.