Turkey’s top cleric returns luxury car after strong criticism
Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) head Mehmet GörmezTurkey’s top cleric, Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) head Mehmet Görmez, has said he will return his 1 million Turkish Lira ($435,000) official car that was recently purchased, following strong criticism from opposition parties and the public.
“When the news broke [about the purchase], the vehicle had not even been used by the head of the Diyanet [the Religious Affairs Directorate]. This vehicle turned into a grave for me after I saw the reports. I have not used this car for even one day,” Görmez told private broadcaster Habertürk TV late May 4 in an interview.
“Therefore, I will return this car to constitute an example,” he added.
Although admitting that his office issued the request for a new official car because the current one was too old, he described news reports about the purchase as a “campaign to discredit the Diyanet.”
The purchase of a Mercedes S500 sedan, worth 1 million Turkish Liras ($435,000) for the cleric, in addition to 14 Toyota cars for the Diyanet’s general directors and 16 minibuses for general use, stirred up strong reaction against the directorate.
The Diyanet announced on Dec. 13 that the purchases had been made with state funds, not with citizens’ private donations.
Earlier in December, Görmez was featured in international media when he met Pope Francis, during the latter's historic visit to Turkey. It was reported that the Turkish authorities had refused the Pope's request for "a humble car" in Ankara on the grounds of security. Nevertheless, in Istanbul, the pontiff surprised many onlookers when he arrived in a modest vehicle bearing a civilian license plate.