Atatürk statue in Turkey's Rize moved to different location amid controversy

Atatürk statue in Turkey's Rize moved to different location amid controversy

Atatürk statue in Turkeys Rize moved to different location amid controversy

AA photo

A statue of Turkey’s founding-father, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was removed on Dec. 22 from the main town square of the Black Sea province of Rize and was re-erected on a ceremony area in front of the Rize governor’s office amid reactions from a group of people who said the work was ideologically motivated. 

Municipality workers began works to remove the statue that was located on the 15 July Democracy and Republic Square, renamed after the July 15 coup attempt, after the Rize municipality decided to re-plan the square. The statue was decided to be placed in front of the Rize governor’s office building. 

While the work to remove the statue was ongoing, a group of people led by the Kemalist Thought Association (ADD) head Ömer Toprak and the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) provincial executive board member, Saltuk Deniz, expressed their dismay in a gathering. The group was later dispersed by police teams.

After 7 hours of re-erection works in front of the governor’s office, the statue was finally placed to the designated area. 

Speaking to reporters, Toprak said they reacted to the removal of the statue because the square is at the heart of the city and said it signified importance. 

“This plan was aimed at Atatürk and the republic. They are trying to erase Atatürk from Rize’s memory. We, as the natives of Rize are not happy with this. They [previously] wanted to remove Atatürk [statue] and replace it with a statue of a tea glass instead. Upon reactions, they decided not to. Now they will build a July 15 memorial. They want to erase Atatürk,” Toprak said, adding that if the municipality does not give up on the project, they would re-carry the statue to its original place. 

Rize Mayor Reşat Kasap from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said Dec. 23 that the opposing views was an “attempt to drag the issue to different points,” and the statue was replaced in front of the governor’s office also because official ceremonies from now on would take place there. 

In a written statement published on the municipality’s website, Kasap also said there were no “different intentions” concerning the replacement of the statue other than re-planning the square. 

The first debate over the controversial plan was sparked in September 2015, when the municipality’s plan went public. The project was later delayed amid heavy reactions.