Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of Turkey’s government ally far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), on Jan. 23 backed District Governor Burak Akeller's attack againts imam M.K. for skipping over a part of the Friday sermon.
Speaking in the parliamentary group meeting of his party, Bahçeli alleged that Akeller “warned” the imam for “deliberately” skipping over the part of the sermon that blessed Turkey's dead soldiers.
Bahçeli also maintained that the imam said he was “pressured” not to read that section when Akeller confronted him. The party leader said it was “un-Muslimlike” to “not bless our martyrs because of pressure and imposition, and get a medical report saying that the district governor assaulted you.”
On Jan. 19, District Governor Burak Akeller went to the Bahçelievler Mosque in the Kulp district of Diyarbakır province, where imam M.K. skipped some lines accidentally while reading the sermon. The district governor shouted “Read the sermon fully and correctly,” asked him “if he was a terrorist,” then pulled on the imam’s robe and hit him with a microphone handle. The imam received a medical report and filed a criminal complaint against Akeller.
Bahçeli added that he was sending his thanks to the governor's parents. According to the MHP leader, the event was bigger than a misunderstanding between an imam and a district governor, and the spread of the event on social media affirmed their suspicion that it was a provocation attempt.
Bahçeli also shared his opinions on the upcoming local elections. He said that Ankara and İzmir provinces had to be saved from Republican People’s Party (CHP) rule, and “accused” the party of collaborating with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy and Equality (DEM) Party.
He criticized CHP leader Özgür Özel for calling the province “Tunceli” with its colloquial name “Dersim” during a campaign visit. “I would like to remind the head of CHP that there is no province called Dersim in Turkey. There is only Tunceli, where our bronze-hearted citizens live,” he said.
The Alevi and Kurdish majority Dersim province was officially renamed Tunceli in 1935, as part of the effort to “Turkify” the region and pacify ongoing unrest. Locals still refer to it as Dersim, although Turkish nationalists deny the indigenous name.