A group of people threw stones at the election bus of main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Istanbul Mayor and vice presidential candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu while he was addressing citizens during a rally in the eastern province of Erzurum on May 7.
son dakika: erzurum’da imamoğlu’na taşlı saldırı görüntüleri pic.twitter.com/05gmTGbzrb— Kirkor Narsistyan (@bunsenbeki) May 7, 2023
Speaking on top of the bus, İmamoğlu called on citizens to remain calm in the face of the attack.
After the attack started, İmamoğlu continued to speak for a while and said “Never mind (the attackers). They will regret what they did. Words of love, peace, tranquility, abundance and fertility should fall upon us.”
İmamoğlu severely criticized the security forces and officials for not preventing the attack. “The police who are watching the events, we are watching you. The governor of this city, the chief of police, we are watching you. The police, there are citizens injured here, and you are just watching. Governor and Mayor of Erzurum, I will file a criminal complaint against you all. You provoke people.”
The attack came after the Erzurum Metropolitan Municipality, run by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), brought several public buses together in the square where İmamoğlu would hold an election rally to prevent his rally.
Interrupting his speech due to substances thrown on the bus, İmamoğlu called on the security forces from inside the bus to intervene the attackers. He said that he would continue his tour of the city until the situation calmed down.
“We will stay here until we ensure the safety of the citizens. We're not going anywhere. The people who have been provoked, you throw stones at women's heads, at people with Turkish flags in their hands over so-called nationalism. You insult people with Turkish flags in their hands. Chief of police, governor, we will file a criminal complaint against all of you. Look, I'm continuing the city tour to ensure peace here. Those who come to listen to me, do not throw back the stones they threw. Stay calm. The police have to ensure your safety. The police are watching, I see the police. I see you all. I'm going to file a criminal complaint against all of you,” İmamoğlu said from inside the bus.
While İmamoğlu's bus was leaving, the police finally intervened with heavy vehicles. The crowd gathered at the rally and the group that made a gray wolf sign (nationalists) threw some stuff at each other.
In his first statement after the attack, İmamoğlu said "The metropolitan municipality showed great rudeness. It piled up its buses on the field. Later, we contacted the governor. The governor said that the necessary precautions were taken."
"We arrived at the area where we were going to speak. It was raining stones from everywhere. None of the cops moved (to prevent). Stones were thrown at the heads of the people. I stopped speaking at the fifth minute of my speech because I saw that 10-15 people were injured. I'm going to file a criminal complaint against the chief of police," he added.
Erzurum'daki provokasyon ile ilgili açıklamam. pic.twitter.com/2IzBNisOTR— Ekrem İmamoğlu (@ekrem_imamoglu) May 7, 2023
In a move to justify the attack, some AKP executives accused İmamoğlu and CHP supporters in the audience.
After the attack, presidential candidate and CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu shared a video on his Twitter account and said “There is a militarist (ruling) coalition consisting of mafias, militants, SADAT supporters, drug dealers who killed Sinan Ateş, gangs of five, and (Hizbullah). These are the people who attacked our Mayor Ekrem today. Their aim is to scare our people. Turkey is the country of the reasonable majority. The majority will end this evil. My dear citizens. Focus on May 14 (elections). Do not be angry, do not be offended. Love your people, embrace your heart. Get well soon, my son Ekrem. Bringing change to the country has a price, and we are all ready to pay it.”
In another video, İmamoğlu called on the government to stop using polarizing language and said "I warn you for the last time, don't do it. Do not use this type of language. Members of the government, I'm warning you, you are on the wrong track. You are hurting this nation. You are hurting the families of this nation."
Bugün yaşanan olayların Erzurumlu hemşehrilerimle ilgisi yoktur. Yaralı vatandaşlarımızla konuşuyor, durumlarını yakından takip ediyorum. https://t.co/fLfEFiIyp3— Ekrem İmamoğlu (@ekrem_imamoglu) May 7, 2023
After the attack, İmamoğlu supporters rushed to the Sabiha Gökçen Airport in Istanbul to welcome and show support for him.
İstanbullular, saldırıya uğrayan Ekrem İmamoğlu'nu karşılamak için havalimanında— duvaR (@gazeteduvar) May 7, 2023
İmamoğlu addressed thousands here by saying that the attack had nothing to do with Erzurum citizens and the provocation of 100-200 people cannot be attributed to the whole city.
He said that although stones were thrown at the fifth-sixth minute of his rally, police did not do anything but that their inaction was not their fault as they had been instructed not to intervene.
“Who is the police chief? What kind of an instruction did he give that the police did not move a single bit (intervene)? You have merely watched despite me saying that ‘Thousands of people are throwing stones,’” he said.
İmamoğlu also called Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu “shameless” for claiming that he had referred to Erzurum citizens as “provocateurs.” “The Interior Minister has said that I have called Erzurum citizens provocateurs. Shameless man, slanderer, liar,” İmamoğlu said, adding that Soylu had also “lost his morality.”
The attack stirred a huge reaction among opposition figures and citizens.
The organized attacks against opposition parties and their offices have gained a momentum following the discriminatory remarks of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) executives.
Erdoğan's ally and far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli on May 6 threatened the main opposition bloc Nation Alliance figures with death and said they will either receive “aggravated life sentences” after the May 14 elections or “bullets in their bodies.”