Şeb-i Arus meet fails to break ice between top leaders
KONYA - Hürriyet Daily News
PM Erdoğan skips shaking hands with opposition leader Kılıçdaroğlu during a Konya commemoration. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZThousands gathered Dec. 17 in Konya to mark the 739th anniversary of the death of Rumi, who is remembered for his doctrine of peace and tolerance, but his wisdom failed to produce a thaw in the chilly relationship between the government and main opposition.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu did not even shake hands during the commemoration ceremony, held in honor of the 13th-century poet.
The Şeb-i Arus ceremony – also known as the reunion night, an idiom used to mark Mevlana Jalaladdin Rumi’s union with God – at the Central Anatolian province’s Mevlana Cultural Center was the last in a series of events in honor of Rumi that began Dec. 7 with the Love and Tolerance March in the city.
The closing night was attended by Tajikistani President Emamoli Rahmon, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Health Minister Recep Akdağ, as well as parliamentarians and local and foreign tourists. Erdoğan arrived at the ceremony venue with Rahmon; Kılıçdaroğlu arrived later but did not shake hands with Erdoğan or Rahmon despite passing by the two.
No long speeches after Erdoğan’s order
The ceremony began with an inauguration speech by Konya’s mayor, Tahir Akyürek, which was followed by a Sufi music concert by Ahmet Özhan. The evening ended with a performance by whirling dervishes.
This year, upon Erdoğan’s request, protocol speeches were not delivered for the first time by Konya municipal authorities. In previous years, the prime minister, political party leaders and foreign leaders would deliver lengthy speeches. Erdoğan reportedly suggested the cancellation of such speeches on the grounds that they “spoilt the spirit of the commemorations.”
However, Kılıçdaroğlu disagreed with Erdoğan, criticizing the cancellation of the protocol speeches. “At last we have arrived at this point; the AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party] banned the protocol speeches at the Mevlana commemoration ceremonies,” the CHP said in a statement issued during the commemoration ceremonies.
Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Kılıçdaroğlu condemned Erdoğan for the cancellations. “We were not going to speak about politics, we were going to talk about Mevlana. Why were the protocol speeches cancelled? Probably Mr. Prime Minister was not able to prepare his speech,” he said.