The unfair treatment towards a Kurdish family was one of the reasons that forced a lawmaker of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to resign after 20 years, journalist İsmail Saymaz told opposition channel Halk TV on Friday.
Ahmet Eşref Fakıbaba, a lawmaker from the south-eastern province of Şanlıurfa, an AKP stronghold, resigned both from party membership and his parliamentary seat this week, saying that he would “no longer be with some people who do not conform to his political and moral understanding”.
Fakıbaba, a medical doctor by profession and a former agriculture minister, was top of the news in Turkey this week as the veteran political is known to be one of the main figures in AKPs success in his hometown.
The politician resigned briefly from his party in 2009 when he was not nominated by the AKP for re-election as mayor. Fakıbaba then competed as an independent candidate in local elections and was re-elected by receiving 44 percent of the votes. He later returned to the AKP.
“There were tensions between Fakıbaba and the AKP for the last one, two years,” said Saymaz. “One of the phases of this tension was a 2018 armed confrontation,” between the family of AKP MP İbrahim Halil Yıldız and the Şenyaşar family, who supported the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party.
An argument started between two families while Yıldız, along with his relatives and bodyguards, visited a shop that belonged to the Şenyaşar family, while canvassing for votes in the Suruç district of Şanlıurfa in the run-up to the 2018 elections. The conflict at the shop left one of Yıldız’s brothers dead and two members of the Şenyaşar family wounded.
The brothers, Adil and Celal Şenyaşar, were later brutally murdered by Enver Yıldız, another brother of the MP, at a hospital where they were taken for their injuries. The father, Esvet Şenyaşar, was also murdered at the hospital, allegedly by 20 members of Yıldız’s family.
Emine Şenyaşar, who lost her husband and two of her sons in the incident and saw another son jailed, along with her remaining son Ferit Şenyaşar have become symbols of human rights advocacy in Turkey after they started a silent vigil in March 2021 in front of the Şanlıurfa courthouse asking that justice be served.
In 2018, Fakıbaba rushed to link the Şenyaşar family to terrorism, but he later regretted doing so. “Fakıbaba said at the time that this is a terrorism incident, but when he learned what had happened in reality, he said he had been ashamed of himself for calling the incident a terror event,” Saymaz said.
“Several lawmakers are uncomfortable with this situation. More people to resign as long as this persecution continues,” the Şenyaşar family said in the Twitter account following Fakıbaba’s resignation.
“Fakıbaba is a witness to this incident. One of the reasons behind his resignation is the massacre at the hospital,” Ferit Şenyaşar later told reporters during the family’s daily sit-in. “He previously expressed that he felt a pressure of conscience because of this event. We believe he did not lose anything by resigning, instead he won,” Şenyaşar added.
In fact, there are testimonies that prove that Fakıbaba was present during the 2018 murders at the hospital. A witness told the media after the incident that Fakıbaba tried to calm down the parties but could not succeed.
Fakıbaba is not included as a witness in an indictment on the killings at the hospital that was made public last week. However, in one of the testimonies, a witness from the hospital staff says that Fakıbaba was assaulted by Yıldız’s family members, one of whom jumped on the then-minister’s throat.
The prosecutors demanded life sentences for 14 suspects out of the 19 in the indictment that came more than four years after the deadly event. However, they did not charge the AKP MP Yıldız, who was at the hospital when the murders took place, and his name is mentioned only in the testimonies of witnesses and suspects.
Meanwhile, Fakıbaa this week also announced that he will continue his political career in the centre-right İyi Party, while the opposition media have been repeatedly reporting that several new resignations from the AKP are expected as Turkey enters a new election period.