The leader of Turkey’s nationalist Good Party (İYİP), Meral Akşener, has faced widespread criticism from various sections of society following her speech on Thursday in which she described past political assassinations as “honourable”.
Akşener was speaking in the central province of Sivas as part of her campaign for the upcoming local elections on 31 March. In her speech, she referred to the assassination of Sinan Ateş, the former head of the far-right paramilitary organisation Idealist Hearths, in 2022.
Sharing a personal anecdote about Ateş’s family, Akşener conveyed that his children were living in fear, and stated that he had been killed by “drug dealers”. She went on to say: “We have been witnesses to political assassinations in our past, but they were honourable ones. That’s why none of us was scared then.”
Many responded to Akşener’s comments by reminding the public that she had previously served as interior minister from November 1996 to June 1997. The political assassinations were mainly targeting people from the Kurdish movement and leftist organisations in Turkey. Many of the murders were believed to have been the work of the deep state that was in power at the time.
Co-chair of the Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (DEM), Tuncer Bakırhan, expressed his dismay on social media, saying: ‘Murderers and massacre perpetrators are confessing to their crimes one by one. We knew that the perpetrators of Musa Anter, Mehmet Sincar, Muhsin Melik, Hrant Dink and thousands of other unsolved murders were dishonourable. Now you confess yourselves”.
DEM Party Co-chair Tülay Hatimoğulları shared her reaction on Twitter, saying, “If this is what honour looks like, may your honour sink! Those who dragged Turkey into darkness by killing Kurds, Alevis, Armenians, socialists and intellectuals have already been condemned by history and society. Even enmity can have morality, but the shame of these dark personalities has spread all over the world. Today, the confession of genocidal mentality spills from their tongues”.
Eren Keskin, co-chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD), also expressed her outrage, saying:
“Appalling, beyond appalling! … We know who she means by ‘honourable murder’, don’t we? This endorsement of violence can only happen in a dystopia like this! She is talking about our dead”.
In a social media post, Bülent Karakaş, deputy chairman of the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) Istanbul Kağıthane branch, recalled the murders of Uğur Mumcu, Gaffar Okan and Hrant Dink and voiced his criticism.
In response to Akşener’s comments, the Şırnak Bar Association said in a statement, “As the Şırnak Bar Association, we condemn the leader of the İYİ Party, Meral Akşener, for her grave statement and emphasise that the main purpose of the state’s existence is to ensure the security of people’s lives”.
According to the İHD, a total of 1,964 people died in unsolved political killings in the decade between 1989 and 1999. Such allegedly ‘regularised’ enforced disappearances and ‘unsolved murders’, especially during the 1990s, have been engraved in the social memory of people in Turkey.