Duvar English

Member of the Islamist Felicity Party (Saadet) and former Justice Minister Şevket Kazan died on March 9 in Ankara at the age of 86.

Kazan was known for defending the radical Islamist assailants of the Sivas Massacre of July 2, 1993 that killed 37 individuals in Hotel Madımak, mostly Alevi intellectuals.

Kazan visited the assailants in prison.

Kazan was also highly criticized for his comments during his time as justice minister following a visit to prisoners of the death fasts of 1996, in which prisoners protested solitary confinement and maltreatment.

“They stashed food from the cafeteria. They secretly eat, they’re faking it,” Kazan said about the prisoners of the 69-day fast in which 12 people died.

‘One Minute of Dark for Lasting Light’

He also made controversial comments about the ‘One Minute of Dark for Lasting Light’ protest of Feb. 1, 1997, where citizens condemned the Susurluk Scandal in which government-police-mafia ties were revealed by a traffic accident on Nov. 3, 1996.

Kazan had said the protesters were playing “mum söndü,” which translates literally to “candle out” and refers to mixed gender Alevi rituals in which candles are extinguished at the end of ceremonies. The rituals have been scrutinized by Sunni sects who related the ceremony to sexual activity.

Mixed reactions to a controversial figure’s death

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Forestry and Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli and Health Minister Fahrettin Koca shared condolences on their social media accounts about the former minister.

Meanwhile, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Istanbul deputy Ahmet Şık tweeted about Kazan’s controversial comments as minister.

“We didn’t know him as a good guy: He was the pro-bono lawyer for the Sivas Massacre assailants. He called the lights-off protest against the Susurluk gang ‘mum söndü.’ He was justice minister during the death fast protests of 1996 and said ‘They stashed food from the cafeteria. They secretly eat, they’re faking it,'” Şık tweeted.

A lifetime political ally of Erbakan

Kazan started his career in 1971, right out of Istanbul University’s Law School, by joining the political Islamist National Order Party (MNP) founded by former Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, one of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s declared mentors.

Kazan held a seat in parliament for the MNP, worked as a justice minister for a coalition government between the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the National Salvation Party (MSP), and as a labor minister for the first “National Front Coalition Government” between the Justice Party (AP), MSP, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Republican Reliance Party (CGP).

Incarcerated after the July 12, 1980 coup, Kazan went back into politics with the political Islamist Welfare Party (Refah) in 1991 and served once again as justice minister under the Refahyol government when Erbakan served as prime minister in 1996.