Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that he will change the name of Mardin airport on Saturday, after seeking the approval of his supporters during a rally in the southeastern province of Turkey.
Erdoğan told his supporters that a new terminal was built for the airport, increasing its annual passenger capacity to 3 million.
“And today I felt that my heart has a will,” he said. “I said myself let’s change the name of Mardin Airport as Mardin Aziz Sancar Airport,” he added, referring to the Mardin-born molecular biologist who was co-awarded the Nobel prize in Chemistry in 2015.
Erdoğan then asked those listening to him whether they had approved his proposition. “It is approved unanimously,” he said, after observing people’s reaction.
Erdoğan’s sudden decision to change the name of the airports is an example of the arbitrary personalised powers given to the president by the country’s new presidential system accepted by popular vote in 2018. The new system has helped Erdoğan to entrench his one-man-rule, according to analysts.
Mardin, one of the three cities under UNESCO’s protection along with Jerusalem and Venice, has for centuries hosted people with different ethnic and religious identities.
The city today is mainly populated by Kurds and Arabs, but was home to significant number of Armenians and Assyrians in the past.
The ethnic identity of Sancar, who is usually defined as a Turkish-American scientist, became a controversial topic after he received the prestigious prize. The scientist is the second cousin of Mithat Sancar, the co-chair of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who is of Arab descent.
“Our fathers are cousins. They should know that Aziz Sancar’s mother tongue is Arabic. Aziz Sancar is whatever I am. Our family talks with each other in Arabic,” the politician said in 2015.