CHP leader: Government turned blind eye to disrespect for flag

CHP leader: Government turned blind eye to disrespect for flag

CHP leader: Government turned blind eye to disrespect for flag

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu addresses his party members at Parliament, June 10. AA Photo

Turkey’s main opposition leader has claimed that both the president and the prime minister broke their silence over removal of the national flag from an Air Force base in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır only after he “raised hell” over the incident.

“Imagine a military unit. You jump over chain-link fences, you climb to the flagpole, you take down the flag, you get it and you come back to this side again by climbing over the chain-link fences,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said on June 10, describing how a masked protester climbed a pole at the 2nd Air Force base in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır and took down the flag on June 8, during violent clashes between security forces and demonstrators.
Sunday’s clashes were an extension of earlier protests against the growing military presence in the region, which were further sparked after the killing of two protesters late on June 7.

A masked demonstrator was photographed by Agence France-Presse photographer İlyas Akengin on June 8 as he was climbing the flagpole after jumping over the walls surrounding the 2nd Air Force Command.

“The prime minister said nothing and the president said nothing either. Journalists told me and I raised hell. Only afterward did he [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] yell, saying ‘How can a flag be brought down?’” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

“How can I remain silent at the taking down of a flag? How can this country remain silent? Hundreds of thousands of our people were martyred to have that flag raised. I’m calling out to all my citizens; wasn’t it [Erdoğan] who until as recently as yesterday said ‘I have trampled on all kinds of nationalisms’? Nationalism is love for the flag,” he added.

The opposition leader referred to a statement by Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, who on June 9 urged attention to a written statement released by the General Staff earlier on June 9 concerning the incident.

Arınç quoted the statement as saying, “We have been patiently following the incidents,” adding that the protester who took down the flag could be “punished at that moment” if members of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) “did not act with patience in commitment to the political will of the government.”

The CHP head said these remarks showed the apparent impotence of the Turkish military. “Here is the explanation. He says, ‘We have given the order, so the military didn’t intervene.”

Kılıçdaroğlu’s remarks on the clashes focused entirely on the flag incident, without any note on the killings of Ramazan Baran, 26, and Baki Akdemir, 50, who both died from gunshot wounds during the security forces’ attack on a roadblock protest against the construction of a gendarmerie post in Lice.