Interior Minister Şahin under fire from all sides
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Daily News Photo/ Selahattin SönmezInterior Minister İdris Naim Şahin landed in the hot seat yesterday as a senior ruling party official categorically disowned his remarks about December’s deadly bombing at Uludere on behalf of both the government and the Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The controversy, which unfolded in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s absence, raised questions about Şahin’s future with the AKP, where his hard-line attitudes and frequent gaffes have already caused irritation.
“We don’t think that the minister’s approach and tone are humane. It’s obvious that his approach and tone do not belong to the AK Party and the AK Party government,” AKP deputy chair Hüseyin Çelik said.
In a television interview the previous day, Şahin had described the 34 smugglers who perished in the botched strike on Dec. 28, 2011 as “extras” in a ploy “orchestrated entirely” by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He suggested that the victims were smuggling goods supplied by the PKK.
“When you look at the broader context, there are no grounds for an apology. Those youths should not have been there. They would have stood trial if they had survived,” he said.
Çelik retorted that the slain villagers were engaged in smuggling in order to make the ends meet, stressing that illegal border trade between Turkey and Iraq has been long tolerated in the impoverished region. “It is wrong to describe the people who died there as PKK extras when no such evidence exists. The fact that the PKK is feeding on smuggling would not make those people PKK extras just because they are trying to earn their lives, even through illegal ways. The government’s decision to pay compensations for those people shows that they were not terrorists or PKK pawns,” he said.
Erdoğan was in Kazakhstan when Çelik dressed down the minister, and was scheduled to touch down in Istanbul late in the evening.
Şahin has reportedly also irked the by singling out commanders at Air Force headquarters in Ankara as the officials who gave the go-ahead for the botched raid, after seeing images from a drone monitoring the Iraqi border. Erdoğan had refrained from specifying where the order originated, and stood by the army.
Fresh tirade on PKK
On a visit to Sakarya, Şahin withheld any immediate comment on Çelik’s rebuke. He delivered a fresh tirade against the PKK and denounced any criticism of the anti-terrorism struggle as “treason,” according to Anatolia news agency.
“No one has the right to be demoralizing when they comment on the security forces which are defending the country’s unity. Such a right ceases to be a right and becomes treason. It is stupidity and idiocy at the very least,” Şahin said. He described the blood of soldiers killed in clashes with the PKK as “clean” and that of the militants as “polluted.”
The main opposition Republican Party (CHP) said Şahin should quit his post. “Let alone his ministerial merits, we doubt whether he has any human feelings. His resignation or dismissal should remind the government of its responsibilities. We’ve seen once again that the AKP mindset has nothing to do with democracy and is instead deepening the problems,” the CHP statement said.