Mayor rules out referendum to remove Atatürk statue in Turkey’s north
DHA PhotoThe mayor of the Black Sea province of Rize has ruled out the claim in several media reports that a referendum would be held to decide whether an Atatürk statue at a major public area should be replaced with a tea glass-shaped statue as part of a reconstruction plan of the area.
“Media reports saying the Atatürk statue will be demolished by the [Rize] municipality are false,” Rize Mayor Reşat Kasap said in a written statement on Sept. 22, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency, in the wake of published media reports stating the statue would be removed from Rize’s Cumhuriyet Square and a referendum would be held to decide whether to replace it with a tea glass-shaped statue.
Kasap said all who wanted to get correct information could check out the municipality’s website to learn more about the municipality’s projects and he would bring the issue to court.
The statement came hours after a controversy sparked over removing the statue of Turkey’s founder currently at Cumhuriyet Square and placing a tea glass-shaped statue instead as part of a reconstruction plan.
Ömer Toprak, the Rize provincial head of the Atatürkist Thought Association (ADD), a non-governmental organization espousing the ideas of Atatürk, angrily reacted after Kasap purportedly debated whether putting the Atatürk statue back would be ascertained by a referendum.
“It is neither acceptable nor understandable to hold a referendum to decide on the fate of a hallmark of the Republic,” Toprak said, criticizing placing a tea glass statue in place of the current Atatürk statue at the square. Rize is known for mass production of black tea leaves.
The reconstruction project for the square was not a project of good will, but one that planned to “live down” Atatürk, Toprak said, slamming the referendum idea.
“What will they vote on? The Republic? Atatürk? There will be no benefit to get into conflict both with the Republic and its merits. The Republic, the Turkish flag and Atatürk... They’re all our common values. There cannot be referendum over common values. The mayor should change his mind on this,” he said.
"The AK Parti has no problem with Atatürk or his statue. It is absurd to ask people whether they want a tea glass or Atatürk's statue," AKP deputy Hikmet Ayar said, opposing a referendum.