Che was a bandit or a hero, Turkey debates
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARATurkish Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman has called Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara a “killer” and a “bandit,” while criticizing the Turkish youth’s interest in him by wearing his image on shirts and badges, drawing reaction from Cuba’s ambassador to Turkey, Turkish opposition parties and social media users.
“There are Dev-Lis [Revolutionary High School Students]. They wear shirts [featuring the image] of Che Guevara. Che was a killer personality who was killed at the age of 39 and carried out executions in person. He was a guerilla. A bandit who was involved in activities in Bolivia, Cuba and South America cannot be on the collar and chest of my high school student youth. It should not be. He has no ties with me. He is not my roots. He is not my history,” Kahraman said on Aug. 28 while speaking at a conquest celebration program in the Black Sea province of Rize.
Kahraman also stated that Turkey had its own history and people to be proud of.
“It is strange that the whole world knows Fatih [Mehmed the Conqueror] and Turkey does not,” Kahraman said, pointing to the significance of telling and endearing the Turkish youth their own history.
Meanwhile, Cuban Ambassador to Ankara Alberto Gonzales Casals described Kahraman’s labeling of Che Guevara as a “killer and a bandit” as “unacceptable.”
“I want to believe [the] parliament speaker’s declaration is more linking to misunderstanding and misinformation about the history of Che Guevara,” Casals told Hürriyet Daily News, adding that not even Cuba’s “worst enemies” had said this about Guevara.
“Ernesto Che Guavera is a symbol not only for Cuba, but Latin America. These kinds of declarations do not reflect friendship between Cuba and Turkey,” Casals stated. “That’s why we are really surprised [by] these kinds of declarations. We don’t request sharing the same ideas. We request only respect to our symbols, our icons,” he said, adding that symbols needed to be respected even if the two countries did not share the same ideas.
The ambassador said they had received many calls form Turkish nationals for solidarity.
Casels added that Kahraman’s descriptions of Guevara’s activities were “referring to the struggle of Che Guevara in Cuba for the Cuban revolution.” The ambassador also said the comments showed “a lack of respect,” as former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and current Cuban President Raul Castro were on Guevara’s side, saying to label Guevara as a “bandit” would be the “same [label] on my president now.”
“So I tenderly request to clarify… [these] kind of declarations to our symbols and our government,” Casals added.
The ambassador said he understood the context of the declaration, as it was referring to how the Turkish youth saw the history of Turkey.
“Cuba is not imposed. Che Guevara is not imposed on nobody. They are examples on values for their own values,” he said.
“This person he called ‘bandit’ and ‘murderer’… used to read books of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,” the ambassador added.
Meanwhile, Turkish social media users immediately reacted to Kahraman’s remarks, sharing pictures of their shirts and badges on Twitter.
Deputies from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) also criticized Kahraman’s remarks on social media.
“The parliament speaker needs to remember that he has more important duties than caring about what the youth put on their collars,” CHP Istanbul deputy Onursal Adıgüzel tweeted.
HDP Adana deputy Meral Danış Beştaş meanwhile shared a quote from Guevara on her Twitter account.