A message from İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu congratulating two female politicians on opposite ends of the political spectrum on the occasion of International Women’s Day has led to resentment among nationalist circles.
İmamoğlu in a tweet congratulated nationalist opposition İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chairperson Pervin Buldan as well as all female politicians on the occasion of Women’s Day, marked every year on March 8. Both parties supported İmamoğlu against a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) mayoral candidate in the 2019 local elections.
İYİ Parti Genel Başkanı Sayın @meral_aksener ve HDP Eş Genel Başkanı Sayın @PervinBuldan'ın nezdinde tüm kadın siyasetçilerin ve Türkiye genelindeki kadın belediye başkanı mevkidaşlarımın 8 Mart Dünya Kadınlar Günü'nü kutlarım.
— Ekrem İmamoğlu (@ekrem_imamoglu) March 7, 2021
While Buldan liked İmamoğlu’s message on Twitter, İYİ Party politicians expressed unease over their leader’s name being mentioned in the same message as Buldan.
Turkey’s AKP and nationalist parties such as the İYİ Party and the AKP’s election ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), see the HDP as the political shop window for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU. The MHP has even been making calls for its closure.
Yavuz Ağıralioğlu, an İYİ Party lawmaker, tweeted that he does not find right the mentioning of Akşener’s name together with a politician from the HDP, which he said has failed to distance itself from “a murder network that has been leaving mothers without their sons for years,” referring to a war the PKK has been waging in Turkey’s Southeast for more than three decades.
İYİ Party İstanbul provincial director Buğra Kavuncu was also critical of İmamoğlu’s Women’s Day message, tweeting that he does not accept the mayor using Akşener’s name in the same message as a representative from a party “that has failed to distance itself from terrorism.”
Akşener said in a statement to reporters later on Monday that most of her party’s officials were disturbed by İmamoğlu’s tweet and that they were right.
She said both İmamoğlu’s message and the criticism of it should be taken as an exercise of freedom of speech.
The HDP denies any links to the PKK and says it promotes a peaceful solution to Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish problem.