Ex-football star Dilmen, MHP leader Bahçeli trade barbs over Erdoğan comparison
A former football star’s remarks comparing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to a late left-wing revolutionary have raised eyebrows, prompting a rebuttal from Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli.
Rıdvan Dilmen, who is today a popular pundit commenting on the Turkish Super League, on Dec. 15 likened Erdoğan to Deniz Gezmiş while describing his affection for the president and his family.
“When I look at Tayyip Erdoğan, I see a Deniz Gezmiş without the parka coat. I see a person with democratic leftist views. Deniz Gezmiş went to Palestine and fought the U.S., saying ‘down with imperialism.’ Erdoğan is also struggling against imperialists,” Dilmen told private broadcaster Habertürk, adding that he is the son of a father who supported the Workers Party (İP).
In response, Bahçeli referred on Dec. 16 to Dilmen’s famous nickname “Şeytan” (devil in English), saying he “shouldn’t carry his devilishness on the football field into politics,”
Student leaders Gezmiş, Hüseyin İnan and Yusuf Aslan were hanged on May 6, 1972 at the Ulucanlar Prison in Ankara after the March 12, 1971 military coup.
The three were found guilty of “attempting to change all or part of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey” as the founders of the People’s Liberation Army of Turkey (THKO).
Gezmiş and his colleagues have become important figures for the Turkish left. Mahir Çayan, the leader of another revolutionary group, and his eight comrades who were killed in a clash with security forces on March 30, 1972 after abducting two NATO technicians to demand the executions be canceled in exchange for their return.
“A person who managed to gain significant successes in sports has been dragged into certain mistakes when commenting on an issue. Calling the president ‘a Deniz Gezmiş without his parka’ does not befit the Turkish people or the president,” Bahçeli said, describing Dilmen as a “lackey” and stating that Erdoğan cannot be compared to “the terrorist of an era.”
In response, Dilmen released a statement via his social media account, saying he is “neither a devil nor a lackey.”
“No one should expect an apology from me because I haven’t done anything that would necessitate an apology,” he wrote on his Instagram account.