Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan slapped me involuntarily, says Soma man
Many social media users have suggested that the image shows Turkish PM Erdoğan 'punching' a protester.
A man from the mining disaster-struck town of Soma said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slapped him "involuntarily" during a scuffle on May 14, after the footage of the incident is revealed and condemned by opposition parties on May 15.
The crowd surrounding Erdoğan in the footage, which has been widely circulated on the Internet, makes it difficult to discern the exact circumstances of the incident.
However, at the beginning of the video several people are heard booing and whistling at Erdoğan, who then appears to single out one protester, telling him to “Come and boo me here to my face.”
After the unidentified person enters a nearby supermarket, Erdoğan is seen following him with his aides and bodyguards. The prime minister’s arm then appears to swing in the entrance of the supermarket amid the scuffle, before he walks from the area along with his security team.
Many social media users suggested that the video shows Erdoğan “punching” the protester, though it is not clear from the footage whether his fist is actually aimed at someone or whether it was just swung in protest.
Taner Kuruca told Kanal D television later on May 15 that he was the person who was heckled by the entourage of Erdoğan in the supermarket. Claiming that he was a regular customer of the supermarket and found himself in an awkward situation after Prime Minister was escorted there by his bodyguards who seeked a safe place amid the protest, Kuruca said:
"I was not one of the protesters. I came face to face with Prime Minister. As his bodyguards started to push, Prime Minister unfortunately did something involuntarily and slapped me while I was walking backwards, because he was angry at the crowd and he couldn't control himself."
Kuruca, who claimed that he fell down after he was hit by one slap, also stressed that he won't file a criminal complaint against Erdoğan. "I don't think that Mr. Prime Minister did it intentionally. I hope that Prime Minister also regrets because of what happened. I won't sue Mr. Prime Minister. I just expect an apology," Kuruca added.
Both the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have expressed regret after footage emerged.
“It is as if you have just discovered the prime minister,” CHP Deputy Chair Gürsel Tekin said on the same day as the footage emerged, in an apparent reference to Erdoğan’s short-temper.
“This is our prime minister who we know very well. He lectures everybody on manners, but he himself acts indecently,” Tekin said, speaking at a press conference following a meeting of his party’s Central Executive Board (MYK), which was chaired by party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. Tekin said Kılıçdaroğlu had instructed the party’s administration to be “calm and not to politicize such a disaster.”
In late April, CHP Manisa deputy Özgür Özel filed a motion asking for a parliamentary inquiry into deadly accidents in the coal mines of Soma. The motion was rejected by votes from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which holds a majority at Parliament.
Speaking to reporters on May 14, Erdoğan argued that only the title of the motion was related to Soma and it actually aimed to divert the agenda of Parliament and hamper the government’s activities.
Apparently breaking with Kılıçdaroğlu’s “no politicization” line, Tekin said Erdoğan had himself politicized the issue with such a response. “A politician who has the average human dignity has a few rules that he should obey. There is no need for democracy, freedom and the rule of law for obeying these rules. The first fundamental rule that politicians with human dignity should obey is to immediately resign when similar incidents occur,” he said.
MHP Deputy Chair Tuğrul Türkeş shared the YouTube link to the alleged punch on his Twitter account with a note addressed to Erdoğan.
“One day, the iron punch of all of those oppressed people who you have victimized will be thrown at your head,” Türkeş said in his Tweet.
According to a report in daily Evrensel, Erdoğan entered the supermarket and targeted a teenage girl, punching her repeatedly after she shouted at him, “What is the murderer of my father doing here?”
“The girl was saying, ‘don’t do it, brother.’ I’ve never seen anything like this. I was horrified. How can a prime minister do something like this? What is this fury?” said an eyewitness who only identified herself as G.K. out of fear of repercussions to her fiancé, who is a civil servant.
The sorrow for the losses of Turkey’s deadliest mine accident ever has slowly turned into anger against the authorities, particularly after Erdoğan’s statement saying that such labor accidents are “typical.”
The latest video also surfaced hours after a photograph emerged showing Erdoğan’s adviser, Yusuf Yerkel, kicking a mourner in Soma.