Turkish parliament speaker’s remarks on Che ‘advised youth to follow their own leaders’

Turkish parliament speaker’s remarks on Che ‘advised youth to follow their own leaders’

Turkish parliament speaker’s remarks on Che ‘advised youth to follow their own leaders’

DHA photo

The press office of the Turkish parliament has sought to calm some of the controversy over Parliamentary Speaker İsmail Kahraman’s contentious remarks on Ernesto “Che” Guevara, saying they were only intended as “advice to the Turkish youth to follow their own heroes and leaders.”

“In the speech delivered by Mr. Kahraman, it was recommended to our youngsters, who have internalized our own national values and who are the guarantee of our country’s bright future full of prosperity and peace, that thousands of heroes and leaders in our history could be taken example as role model and followed, not a personality who participated in Cuba’s socialist revolution,” the statement read on Aug. 30.

Kahraman drew angry reactions after he called the Argentine revolutionary a “killer” and a “bandit,” as he criticized the Turkish youth’s interest in him by wearing his image on shirts and badges.

“There are Dev-Lis [Revolutionary High School Students]. They wear shirts [featuring the image] of Che Guevara. Che was a killer personality who was killed at the age of 39 and carried out executions in person. He was a guerilla. A bandit who was involved in activities in Bolivia, Cuba and South America cannot be on the collar and chest of my high school student youth. It should not be. He has no ties with me. He is not my roots. He is not my history,” Kahraman said.

Cuban Ambassador to Ankara Alberto Gonzales Casals described Kahraman’s labeling of Che as a “killer and a bandit” as “unacceptable.”

“I want to believe [the] parliament speaker’s declaration is more linked to misunderstanding and misinformation about the history of Che Guevara,” Casals told the Hürriyet Daily News, adding that not even Cuba’s “worst enemies” had said this about Guevara.  

“Ernesto Che Guevera is a symbol not only for Cuba, but Latin America. These kinds of declarations do not reflect friendship between Cuba and Turkey,” Casals stated. 

“That’s why we are really surprised [by] these kinds of declarations. We don’t request that the same ideas be shared. We request only respect for our symbols and our icons,” he said, adding that symbols needed to be respected even if the two countries did not share the same ideas.

Casals also said that a number of Turkish citizens had called his office to express support following Kahraman’s comments.

Guevara was killed in a CIA-backed plot in Bolivia in 1967 after previously helping Fidel Castro stage the Cuban Revolution, ousting the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.