Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu has responded to increasing accusations against him and opposition municipalities from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, saying that they keep their silence for the good of the people.
“We keep our silence for the sake of our people and for the good of them,” İmamoğlu said on April 22, as he commented on Erdoğan’s remarks on the aid activities of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) municipalities being similar to those of “terrorist organizations.”
“In no country, municipalities serving their people, such as by bringing them food, as necessitated by their constitutional duties are treated as ‘terrorist organizations’ and their mayors as ‘terrorist organization leaders.’ In no country such dangerous sentences that bear the risk of making terrorist organizations seem sympathetic are made,” İmamoğlu also said.
The rift between the CHP and Erdoğan’s AKP has been ongoing since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in Turkey, with the government preventing municipalities run by the main opposition from carrying out aid campaigns.
The issue began when the Interior Ministry banned municipalities from holding donation campaigns against the coronavirus pandemic, saying that donations can be collected by the government only. The opposition municipalities’ bank accounts were also blocked.
The government then attempted to seal off a field hospital constructed by the municipality in the southern province of Adana and prevented bread distribution in the neighboring province of Mersin.
In a speech on April 20, Erdoğan likened the municipalities’ aid attempts to the attempts of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the movement of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen – both designated as terrorist organizations in Turkey.
İmamoğlu, in return, said that it’s impossible to expect municipalities to do nothing when there are economic hardships caused by the pandemic.
“This is what they want. How can this be possible? Were we elected to these posts to just sit or serve? If people are not going to see us standing with them when they are need, when will them? They are saying that the state is giving aid. Are municipalities not state institutions?” İmamoğlu said.
“We keep asking the state everyday to work together. Even though they keep pushing us away, we continue to approach them for the benefit of the society. But the response we encounter is, ‘These attempts were tried by terrorist organizations like FETÖ [the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization] and the PKK,'” he also said.
İmamoğlu noted that the municipalities remain silent against the accusations due to knowing that engaging in a war of words when people are experiencing hardships will not benefit the people.
“Whoever likens our municipalities’ aid efforts to ‘terrorism’ gets the response. However, now is not the time. I personally reserve my right to do so,” he also said.
“For now, we’re hearing the harsh accusations coming behind us, but keep going without saying anything. We don’t have time to lose with the people shouting behind us. We keep running forward for the people,” İmamoğlu added.