Kurdish political prisoner Selahattin Demirtaş, who was directly targeted in Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s presidential election victory speech on Sunday night, has responded to the attack by defiantly evoking a powerful historic symbol of justice.
Demirtaş, imprisoned in Turkey as the former co-chair of the country’s opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), drew upon historical symbolism by invoking the name of Sultan Salahuddin Ayyubi, a Kurdish Muslim military leader who played a significant role in the Crusades.
In a traditional balcony speech after securing another term with 52,18 percent of the vote, Erdoğan persisted in branding Demirtaş as a terrorist, echoing consistent rhetoric to that affect evident throughout his election campaign. The divisive rhetoric used by Erdoğan during the speech resonated with supporters who vehemently chanted “Death to Selo”, apparently outwardly supporting an idea that the former HDP co-chair should be executed.
Demirtaş responded to the President’s direct attack via his lawyers.
“The ageing monarch, intoxicated by an illusory and deceitful triumph, persists in his malicious taunts and threats, perched upon the opulent balcony of his grand palace. Meanwhile, a frenzied mob, dizzy with falsehoods and pleasure, unites in a cacophony, demanding ‘execution’ in unison,” he said.
“This is not one of the bygone days in France. The year is 2023, and the scene is unfolding in Ankara,” he added, in the Twitter post.
“I am the descendant of the great Kurdish commander Saladin Ayyubi, the conqueror of Jerusalem, whose name I bear. Rest assured, when the day dawns, I shall treat you all justly,” said the politician, making the historical reference.
Salahuddin Ayyubi, often referred to as Saladin, was the founder and first sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty, which ruled over Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and parts of modern-day Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. He gained fame for his military campaigns during the 12th century against Crusader states in the Levant.
Saladin’s most notable achievement was the recapture of Jerusalem in 1187 from the Crusaders. This event marked a turning point in the Crusades and made Saladin a prominent figure in both Western and Muslim histories.
Despite his military fervour, Saladin was known for his chivalrous behaviour and his reputation as a just and merciful ruler. He was admired by his enemies as well as his own people, according to historical narrative. Saladin’s respect for religious diversity and his efforts to establish peace have made him a celebrated figure in Islamic history.