Turkish gov’t intolerance towards calls for resignation draws further ire

The AKP ministers' growing intolerance towards calls on the government to resign over the failure of inadequate response to the major earthquakes draws ire. Finance Minister Nebati deemed the calls "immoral," whereas Youth and Sports Minister Kasapoğlu "provocation."

Duvar English

The Turkish government’s inadequate and late response to the earthquake disaster that shook the country’s southeast on Feb. 6 have initiated several protests with people calling on the government to resign.

In a Feb. 25 game, Fenerbahçe fans shouted slogans calling on the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to resign over not preparing the country for earthquakes despite being in power for over 20 years. Fans shouted “Government resign!” and “A pack of lies. It's been 20 years, resign," during the match.

A similar call came from Beşiktaş fans in a Feb. 26 match with thousands of fans calling on the government to resign.

After these calls, President Erdoğan’s ally and far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli targeted the fans. Bahçeli described the protests as "irresponsible and unconscious" and demanded action from club administrations. He argued that “football clubs have been tricked and trapped" and also announced his resignation from his membership in Beşiktaş club.

Bahçeli also demanded matches to be played without fans if the protests could not be prevented.

After the calls for resignation, several ministers threatened and insulted the fans in question.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Feb. 27 deemed them “marginal,” saying “they should not try to poison this (post-quake) process that this nation is facing.”

“There are some people trying to do politics. There may be those who say, ‘Can I create some chaos in this situation?’ In other words, those who think that we are only dealing with the earthquake issue should not think that we won’t pay attention to this issue of security,” Soylu said.

Turkish Finance and Treasury Minister Nureddin Nebati said on Feb. 27 that “We also fight with immorality while working (in the quake-zone).”

Turkish Youth and Sports Minister Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoğlu deemed the slogans “provocation.”

“Sports fields are not political fields. Sports competitions are not centers of policy making. There is no other result of using sports as a political tool, other than hindering unity and solidarity. We will never allow provocations,” he said on Feb. 27. 

After the protest of fans, the Union of Clubs, including and representing all Turkish Super League clubs, released a statement saying sports clubs are not political institutions and that football should be an area where unity and solidarity will be demonstrated.”

“As the Union of Clubs, we accept it as our duty to be on the side of unity, not separation, in these days when the state needs its nation the most and the nation needs its state the most, and we are experiencing the disaster of the century,” it said.

Before this statement, some of the clubs released statements full of hate speech with similar rhetorics.

Kayserispor said “While we share the pain of our nation in these disastrous days, we present to the public that we are aware of and condemn the dirty politics and contempt that is tried to be made in the tribunes by making this pain an occasion. The Kayserispor Club and community stand by their state and nation until the end.”

The contempt’s Turkish translation “zillet” is also frequently used by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for targeting the main opposition alliance “Millet İttifakı” (the Nation’s Alliance).

The second league club Çaykur Rizespor said “Provocative attempts made in an environment where millions of football fans refuse to enjoy a goal will be recorded in history as the screams of septic rats. We are always with our beloved Nation and State!”

Rizespor’s chair İbrahim Turgut is known as a pro-government businessperson.

Similarly, Yeni Malatyaspor said “It is sickening that our pain is used for political goals in stadiums. The place of politics is ballot boxes, not stadiums. The place of Yeni Malatyaspor fans is on the side of the state. Long live the state that is with us in these difficult times.” Malatya is one of the provinces that the earthquake deeply affected.

Some fan associations of these clubs said that they do not agree with the statements.

Another reason for protests was the Turkish Red Crescent’s (Kızılay) scandalous acts after the earthquakes. 

It has come to light that the Kızılay sold tents to the social assistance organization AHBAP for 46 million liras on the 3rd day of major earthquakes.

Turkish police on Feb. 26 detained more than 200 people for protesting against the Kızılay and the government in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district. 

The police also surrounded the Workers' Party of Turkey’s (TİP) Istanbul provincial building and attacked the MPs while speaking to the press.

On top of these, Devlet Bahçeli on Feb. 28 rebuked citizens in the southeastern Kahramanmaraş’s Elbistan district

The incident happened as Bahçeli was visiting a tent camp set by up the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) in the district.

The video shows several earthquake-hit citizens shouting a slogan demanding that the district Elbistan be turned into a province. In return, Bahçeli reprimands the citizens, saying: “On such a painful day, you do not have the right to sabotage the visit of our President and other officials with such slogans. There will be silence. Disperse, get them down.”

However, even President Erdoğan admitted the late response of the government. 

On Feb. 27, he asked for “blessing” from Adıyaman citizens admitting that the government had failed to respond adequately in the “first couple of days” of major quakes.

“In the first couple of days, in Adıyaman, we were, unfortunately, unable to run the (rescue and search) works with the efficiency we desired, due to the destructive effect of the quakes, the negative weather conditions and the difficulties that were brought by the damaged infrastructure. I ask for your blessing because of this. We are aware of everything and no one should have a doubt that we are doing and will do what is necessary,” he said in southeastern Adıyaman.

The opposition says that a more adequate and early response to the Feb. 6 quakes would save thousands of lives.