Kılıçdaroğlu says ‘sincerely sorry’ for stepping on prayer rug by mistake

Main opposition CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s photo stepping on a prayer rug by mistake has put him at the target of pro-government media outlets and ruling AKP figures. Kılıçdaroğlu said that he was "sincerely sorry" and that the photo was being used to run a defamation "operation" against him.

Duvar English

Turkish opposition Nation Alliance’s presidential candidate and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said that he sincerely apologizes for stepping on a prayer rug as his photo was being taken on March 31.

Kılıçdaroğlu and CHP Istanbul Provincial Chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu had their photo taken following an iftar (fast-breaking meal) gathering organized by the Istanbul Platform on March 31. The photo later went viral on social media, with Kılıçdaroğlu being the target of pro-government media outlets and ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) figures.

Kılıçdaroğlu apologized for the photo and said that he had not noticed the prayer rug on the floor due to the crowd. “This incident happened in the restaurant where we attended an iftar organization. There were people who wanted to have photos taken. I can’t offend anyone. I have no such habit, and I couldn’t keep up. I hug everyone and respect everyone. There were people who wanted to have photos taken; the salon was crowded. I did not see the prayer rug on the floor. And now they are running (defamation) operation (against me),” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

The presidential candidate made the comments as he attended another iftar gathering held by the Istanbul Provincial Organization of the Felicity Party in Yenikapı on April 1. “Let me say this explicitly. I don’t care about their operation. I am sincerely sorry,” he said.

After the photo went viral on social media, Kılıçdaroğlu had also issued a statement of apology on Twitter early on April 1. He had said that his photo was being used as a “tool of propaganda” and that he was “very sorry for not seeing the prayer rug.”

Former Justice Minister İsmail Müftüoğlu, who was also at the March 31 iftar gathering, commented on the issue, saying that the photo was taken at the room of the restaurant’s manager and “carelessness stemming from the crowd” was what caused it.

“Unfair criticism against Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu is far away from common sense and unjust,” Müftüoğlu said, slamming the “cruel, insensitive, recriminatory language” against the politician. 

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said that he “condemns” Kılıçdaroğlu over the photo in question but that he found his apology as an act of “courtesy.” “This shows that he has been misunderstood,” Bozdağ said on April 1. 

Meanwhile, former Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş threw his support behind Kılıçdaroğlu, sharing a photo of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan holding a copy of the Quran in the rallies.

“Is the sin stealing people’s money, attempting to market Quran for the sake of votes, or stepping on prayer rug by mistake? There is no need to be a Muslim to know the correct answer; it is enough to be human," Demirtaş said in a tweet.