Turkish prosecutor launches investigation into Bolu Mayor's billboards insulting Saudi Arabian officials

A Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in Turkey has launched an investigation into billboards put up by the Bolu Mayor around the province calling Saudi Arabian officials “desert rat bedouins” following the Turkish Super Cup incident in Riyadh. 

Duvar English

The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in Turkey’s Marmara Bolu Province on Jan. 2 launched an investigation into the billboards put up by Mayor Tanju Özcan calling Saudi Arabian officials “desert rat bedouins” regarding the censorship incident that led to the cancellation of the 29 Dec. Turkish Super Cup final match.

The LED billboards displayed a message from Mayor Özcan congratulating the Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe football teams for “reminding the greatness of Atatürk to the desert rat bedouins.”

“There is no Turkey without Atatürk,” concluded the message, referring to the founder of the republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. 

The message was removed from the billboards upon the ruling of the chief prosecutor’s office in Bolu, according to reporting by the Demirören News Agency (DHA). 

Özcan reshared the message in question via a social media post and criticized the investigation decision, calling it an “eclipse of reason.” 

“Are we meek as the Turkish nation? The assassin Saudi regime has insulted the memory of the founder of the Turkish Republic,” read the post.

Mayor Özcan emphasized that he did not regret putting up the billboards and that no one could disrespect Atatürk. 

Özcan has a track record of xenophobic and anti-immigration statements and proposals during his tenure as Bolu’s mayor. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) mayor will run again for the seat in the upcoming local elections.

He was recently pardoned by CHP after being dismissed in July 2023 for making a sexist remark to a municipal representative from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). 

What had happened?

Turkish Super League teams Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe on Dec. 29 refused to play the Super Cup final match in Saudi Arabia's Riyadh after the country did not allow any quote or image of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the Turkish Republic’s founder, to be displayed hours before the match.

The social media users, sports commentators, and opposition politicians shared their support messages to both teams for their decision to not play the match.