Turkish Interior Minister’s photo with funeral attacker stirs debate

Turkish Interior Minister’s photo with funeral attacker stirs debate

Turkish Interior Minister’s photo with funeral attacker stirs debate

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu (L) poses for a photo with one of the attackers on a funeral.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu’s picture with one of the attackers of the funeral of the jailed Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmaker Aysel Tuğluk’s mother has stirred debate. The minister responded by saying he did not know the person he posed with was among the suspects.

“What is important is not with whom our photos were taken, but whether they were involved in a crime in terms of the law. After our orders, the investigation [into the attack] was deepened and testimonies of 48 people were taken. This person [in the picture], whose testimony was also taken, was detained upon the prosecutor’s orders and is still being kept in detention,” Soylu said in his statement released on Sept. 16, after the photo of him on social media taken with the attacker at the police headquarters prompted massive criticism.

The funeral of the mother of the jailed HDP lawmaker Aysel Tuğluk, Hatun Tuğluk, was attacked in the capital Ankara by a group of around 20-25 people chanting racist slogans late on Sept. 13, drawing widespread condemnation across the political spectrum.

As a result of the attack, the body was exhumed from the cemetery in Ankara’s Gölbaşı and taken to the eastern province of Tunceli on Sept. 14.

According to the Ankara Governor’s Office, Soylu arrived at the scene immediately, checking security precautions at the cemetery and telling Tuğluk’s family that all necessary measurements would be taken for the burial.

A day after the attack, Minister Soylu said detentions were being carried out regarding the incident “which saddened us all,” adding that necessary administrative and judicial investigations had been launched.

Two days after his initial statement on the issue, Soylu said on Sept. 16 that on the night of the incident, he spoke with Aysel Tuğluk at the police headquarters for 45 minutes and offered his condolences. 

“With a delegation, we watched the footage of the incident for nearly an hour. After being at the police headquarters for 3.5 hours, we gave orders for the detention and left the building. During that time, the people in the neighborhood who knew we were there wanted to have their pictures taken with us and we took pictures with a lot of people before leaving,” he also said.

This has no place in ethics, politics: CHP

Leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, meanwhile, has slammed Soylu for having his picture taken with the attacker. “The person who poses for this picture has no place in politics, faith, morals and life,” he said.

“How can an interior minister of a country pose for a picture with those who have brought Turkey into this situation? In fact, you had your picture taken at the police headquarters. This picture means, ‘You can attack the funerals of as many people as you want. I am your guarantor,’” Kılıçdaroğlu said during the opening of the Zülfü Livaneli Culture Center in Ankara on Sept. 16. “There is actually peace on this soil,” he added.

Soylu responds to Kılıçdaroğlu

Minister Soylu responded to Kılıçdaroğlu from Samsun, a Black Sea coastal town, where he attended a party meeting on Sept. 16 and rebuked claims that he must resign from his job because of this picture. 

“I will resign just because of one picture? You are encircled with FETÖ [Fethullahist Terror Organization] members. You have your photos taken with the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] with the PKK supporters and also with the DHKP-C [Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front]. You whole life has passed like this,” Soylu said. 

Never forgivable: HDP

The photo also drew sharp rebuke from the HDP, which said “the picture of Soylu smiling with one of the attackers will never be forgivable,” it said in a statement, while also asking whether there are any other pictures. “We won’t stop following this case,” it also said.

 “The act has no place in our religion and values,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said a day earlier, condemning the attack.

“This is a very wrong approach. First of all, there can be no such intervention against a person’s funeral in our religion and our values, whether you like the person or not. This person is a mother and her daughter obtained legal permission to attend the funeral,” Erdoğan told private broadcaster A Haber on Sept. 15. “No one can carry out such an attack and has no right to do so,” he added.