Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has turned to religious discourse ahead of local elections slated for March 2019 in order to whip up the core supporters in his Islamist base.
Speaking at the general assembly of the Turkey Youth Foundation (TUGVA) on December 22, 2018, Erdogan’s speech was often interrupted by religious slogan chants.
The attendees chanted “[We want] battle, jihad, martyrdom” and said to Erdoğan, “Chief, take us to Jerusalem [to conquer],” which prompted Erdoğan to respond “Inşallah [God willing], soon.”
He also said, “Jews in Israel kick people when they’re on the floor,” adding that Jews kick not only men but also women and children. He vowed that as a Muslim he would confront the Jews “if they have the courage to deal with us head on, and we will teach them a lesson.”
Erdoğan is an “antisemitic dictator,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired back, adding, “He has an obsession with Israel.” Netanyahu said Erdogan “knows what a moral army is and he knows what a genuine democracy is, as opposed to an army that massacres women and children in Kurdish villages and a state, which, to my regret, is becoming more dictatorial day by day.”
TUGVA is a youth foundation run by Erdogan’s son Bilal and his associates. The foundation, backed by the government, has been waging a campaign to raise a generation of political Islamists in Turkey and abroad.