Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) co-founder and former Diyarbakır MP Mehmet İhsan Arslan has been referred to the party's disciplinary committee after an interview he gave to the BBC's Turkish service that was critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his party.
Among Arslan's points of criticism included the manner in which Erdoğan handled the peace process between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Turkish government. A great source of hope for the country's Kurdish population that was buttressed by years of conciliatory comments by Erdoğan, the peace process collapsed in 2015 and the AKP began to take an increasingly nationalist and harsh tone, allying with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
“It is a bit difficult to establish trust. We destroyed it because we got used to saying so many things we were unable to do. We gave hope but could not fulfill it. There were once hopes that [Erdoğan] could solve this problem, but these hopes do not exist anymore, because we also tried to solve the problem with violence,” Arslan said, responding to a question regarding whether or not it was possible to establish trust in working towards solving the Kurdish issue.
“Illegal practices and rights violations increase the public's reaction and awareness. Kurdish awareness and political demands are now stronger than ever before. Kurds want a simple thing, justice. Ankara either doesn't know what the Kurds want or it does know but is just standing by,” Arslan said.
Arslan, whose son Ali İhsan Arslan is a close confidant of Erdoğan and currently serves as an AKP lawmaker, was also critical of the government's stance on the civil war in Syria, both in terms of its support for the armed groups fighting the Assad regime and regarding its handling of ISIS. Arslan said that the government was worried about the connection between the PKK and the Syrian People's Protection Units (YPG) which was fighting ISIS in northeastern Syria in 2014 without Turkey's support.
“However, we could have limited this [connection], we could have had them cooperate with us. Just like how we supported, armed, and trained the organizations fighting against Assad, we could have made the Kurds [in Syria] into a force that worked together with Turkey,” Arslan said.
Arslan also implied that the presidential system that Erdoğan established following a close referendum in 2017 would not last long. “I think that this is a period, and it will pass. After it does, Turkey's transfer [back] to a parliamentary system is not far away.”