Turkey’s new cabinet includes three controversial figures, namely the Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya, whose tenure as Governor of Gaziantep witnessed the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) which staged several bloody attacks across Turkey; Defence Minister Yaşar Güler, who disregarded warnings and authorised the bombing that resulted in the Roboski Massacre; and Mehmet Özhaseki, the architect of “zoning amnesties”, that exacerbated the destruction and casualties caused by the 6 February earthquakes.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced his new cabinet on Saturday following his swearing-in ceremony after elections in May.However, the cabinet’s composition is seen as controversial due to the presence of individuals associated with negligence or direct responsibility in various fatal incidents. These cabinet members have played influential roles in events that have had a lasting impact on Turkey’s recent history, and all have been or are still involved in legal proceedings because of their actions.
Yaşar Güler, the new defence minister, is notorious for his decision to carry out an air bombardment that caused the Roboski Massacre, disregarding local military intelligence that the victims were likely to be smugglers who could have been stopped at the border with a simple warning shot. As General Staff Intelligence Chief, Güler played a critical part in the meeting where the decision was made to proceed. Despite warnings from officers that the group consisted of smugglers rather than terrorists, the operation was approved, resulting in the tragic loss of 34 innocent lives. Although evidence and information in the case pointed to specific individuals being responsible, the case was closed and no judicial proceedings were conducted.
Mehmet Özhaseki, the architect of the legal regulation known as “zoning amnesties” in a previous tenure in the cabinet before last, has once again assumed the position of Minister of Environment, Urbanisation and Climate Change. Özhaseki’s involvement in the “zoning amnesties”, a system of hush-money payments in respect of flawed construction works, has come under scrutiny due to the extensive destruction and loss of life caused by the 6 February earthquake that followed the implementation of this regulation. Experts have raised concerns about the serious deficiencies in building stock and settlement planning associated with the “zoning amnesties”, which could potentially exacerbate the loss of life and property in future natural disasters, and did so in the 6 February earthquakes.
Ali Yerlikaya served as governor of Gaziantep when Islamic State (ISIS) was inflicting terror on Turkey. During this period, suicide bombings by ISIS militants resulted in the tragic deaths of 103 individuals at a peace rally on 10 October 2015, with hundreds more injured and disabled. Lawyers have named Yerlikaya as one of the public officials who should be held accountable in the case of the Ankara Station Massacre, yet he has been appointed to oversee the country’s internal security. Eylem Sarıoğlu, a lawyer involved in the case, stated, “He should have been prosecuted for ‘dereliction of duty’ due to his failure to fulfil his responsibilities. He failed to prevent the activities of the ISIS organisation. Instead of being held accountable, he was rewarded with the governorship of Istanbul. His failure should have been thoroughly examined.”