Seven people were detained for protesting Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu while he was touring İstanbul’s Gazi neighborhood in a political campaign bus just days before Turkey’s presidential runoff, the ANKA news agency reported on Thursday.
Turkey will hold a presidential runoff on May 28 since initial results showed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan failing to secure a first-round win against his secular rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
According to the results of the May 14 presidential election, Erdoğan received 49.5 percent of the vote, while Kılıçdaroğlu garnered 44.8 percent.
Soylu was elected as a lawmaker from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in İstanbul’s second electoral district in the parliamentary election on May 14.
Some people in front of an election booth run by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) reportedly shouted the slogan “Rights, law, justice” to protest Soylu while he was greeting people from inside the campaign bus.
The minister then accused the CHP of links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, in remarks addressed to the party’s supporters in front of the election booth.
According to ANKA, Soylu’s accusation triggered a reaction from a large group of people who booed and whistled at the minister, seven of whom were detained by the police.
Ahmet Şık, a deputy from the Workers Party of Turkey (TİP), criticized Soylu for the detentions, tweeting that the minister “provoked” the citizens in the Gazi neighborhood and then had them detained.
Gazi Mahallesi’ne ancak yüzlerce polis eşliğinde gidebilen @suleymansoylu, kendisini yuhalayarak tepki gösterenlere “CHP-PKK ile iç içe girmişsiniz. Yzıklar olsun size, Kandil’e evet dediniz” diyerek halkı kışkırtıp sonra da gözaltına aldırdı. https://t.co/finOOlZvXS pic.twitter.com/2AYUBfNAyq
— ahmet şık (@sahmetsahmet) May 25, 2023
Speaking about the detentions during a program on Fox TV on Friday, İstanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu from the CHP said, referring to Soylu, that a minister who arbitrarily labels citizens as members of the outlawed PKK cannot be trusted.
CHP İstanbul MP Gürsel Tekin also said in a series of tweets that a minister “cannot simply label an entire neighborhood as PKK members.”
“I’m saying that this is not the right way to go. … You have no shame. [But] have you no reason as well? … No one can falsely accuse anyone of being a PKK member,” he said.
Bakın açıkça söylüyorum. Bu yol yol değil. İçişleri Bakanlığı koltuğunda oturan bir insan çıkıp koca mahalle halkına PKKlı diyemez. Pazar yerinde esnafı ziyaret eden bir Belediye Başkanı’na PKKlı diye hakaret edilemez. Ayıp kalmadı, akıl da mı kalmadı? Seçimden sonrası yok mu? https://t.co/ZZ4E4PSd8P
— Gürsel Tekin (@gurseltekin34) May 25, 2023
Erdoğan and his far-right ally, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, accuse CHP leader and presidential candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of collaborating with “terrorists” due to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)’s support for him.
On various occasions during election campaigns, Erdoğan has attracted widespread accusations of racism and of equating the HDP and Kurds with PKK terrorists in his speeches.