Duvar English

A newly appointed research assistant at Ankara University’s faculty of political sciences has said that a photo showing him holding a gun and pointing it towards the faculty was “meant to be a joke.”

“The gun was a toy gun; I have never up to this age joined an ideological or political movement,” Murat Anıl Varol said.

The controversial photo was taken in October of 2016, when Varol was a law student at the same university. Varol had at the time shared the photo on his Twitter account and referred to it as “the picture of the year.”

After the photo surfaced in the Turkish media on Jan. 10, several people slammed the public university for recruiting Varol as a research assistant. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) even submitted a parliamentary question, asking if the reports of the university having hired Varol as a member of the faculty of political sciences was “really true.”

‘Most shameful event of the year’

A group of students from the university’s several departments later issued a joint statement saying that the appointment of Varol as a research assistant was “the most shameful event of the year” and they would not accept such a person to conduct lectures at the university.

The dean of the faculty of political sciences later made an announcement regarding the issue, confirming that the person in the photo was Varol himself. “We confirm that this colleague is that person but know that the incident has another story to it. I believe that our colleague will make a statement today,” Prof. Dr. Orhan Çelik said on Jan. 13.

Gazete Duvar asked Çelik if the relevant photo was “acceptable,” even if it was “merely taken for theatrical purposes,” to which he replied: “Yes, you are right; it is not also acceptable for us as well. Let’s first see his own explanation; we will then make the necessary statement.”

Just a couple of hours after the dean’s statements, Varol issued a statement, saying that the relevant photo was “meant to be a joke.” He said that this “enactment” was inspired by a poem’s lines reading “You will climb up from these stairs slowly” and later a friend’s statement of “You will fire [a bullet] from these stairs slowly.”

Previous investigation cleared him, says Varol

Varol said that one and a half month after the photo was taken, an investigation was launched into him, but after he told the university officials the issue was just “ misunderstanding ” and showed the receipt of the toy gun, he was not faced with any disciplinary penalty.