Whereabouts of former minister Albayrak subject of speculation, jokes among Turks

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Turkey’s Former finance minister, Berat Albayrak, who is also the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has not appeared in public since his unexpected resignation from office in early November, leading to widespread speculation as well as jokes about his whereabouts.

In a surprise move on Nov. 8, Albayrak stepped down, citing health reasons, in a statement made public on Instagram. His resignation was accepted by Erdoğan on Nov. 9 after hours of silence from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and pro-government media outlets.

Since then, no one has heard from Albayrak, nor has he been seen in public. Some say the former minister moved abroad, while others claim he’s in seclusion in his Black Sea hometown of Trabzon.

Emin Çölaşan, a columnist from the anti-government Sözcü daily, devoted his column on Friday to Albayrak, writing it in the form of a missing person’s notice and using highly ironic language.

“Berat Albayrak, who has sacrificed himself for this land and who will never be forgotten thanks to the service he rendered, has been missing since Nov. 8. He has contributed greatly to the [development] of this nation and performed his job of finance minister with great success despite having made some minor mistakes. He was last seen on Nov.  8,” wrote Çölaşan with apparent irony.

Albayrak, who was appointed finance minister in 2018, has frequently been blamed for the deterioration of the Turkish economy as a decline in the value of the Turkish lira, nearly 30 percent in 2020, led to higher inflation via imports priced in hard currencies.

“Please Berat, show yourself. We have suffered enough longing and pain [during your absence]. Don’t worry, the economy has recovered. Unemployment and inflation have been zeroed out. There’s nothing for you to be afraid of,” wrote Çölaşan.

Turkey’s annual inflation rose more than expected, to 14.6 percent, in December, while the country’s unemployment rate was 12.7 percent in September, according to the latest data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat).

“We are concerned about his well-being. We kindly ask those who are aware of his whereabouts to inform us,” added Çölaşan.

Albayrak’s disappearance also attracted the attention of human rights activist Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu also a member of the Turkish Parliament from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Gergerlioğlu frequently brings up the issue of missing persons and the victims of enforced disappearances in the country and helps the families find their loved ones.

“Where is the son-in-law? For years, I have been busy with the cases of missing persons and victims of enforced disappearances. Son-in-law Berat Albayrak has been missing for two months. If an application is filed [to find him], I will launch the necessary work as a deputy. We don’t discriminate,” Gergerlioğlu tweeted on Wednesday.

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