Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader criticized the arrest of a 17-year-old high school student in İstanbul following the circulation of a video on social media showing him performing a lewd act with a picture of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey.
Cumhuriyetimizin kurucusu Büyük Atatürk’e yönelik hakaretler, Saray İktidarının yarattığı iklimin sonucudur. Bu çirkinliği kabul edemeyiz. Ancak maharet böyle eğitilen, böyle kandırılan, böyle beyni yıkanan bir çocuğu cezalandırmak değildir.
— Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (@kilicdarogluk) September 21, 2023
“The insults against Great Atatürk, the founder of our republic, are the result of the climate created by the palace [Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan]. We cannot accept this obscenity. However, the point is not to punish a child who has been educated, deceived and brainwashed in this way,” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Saying that the arrest will do nothing but “steal from the future of that child,” Kılıçdaroğlu labeled the decision a trick by Erdoğan’s government to delude the public and foment enmity among Turks.
Ahmet Davutoğlu, a former prime minister and leader of the opposition Future Party (GP), also criticized the arrest.
“My child, yes you’ve made a great mistake, but prison is not the place for you. A sincere apology with a commitment to not repeat the offense is sufficient,” said Davutoğlu.
“I would like to ask you, those who exploit you, and those who imprisoned you: What should we lament? The social climate that led to such immoral scenes in an educational institution built at great sacrifice to raise a generation with knowledge, morality and decency? Or that historical figures like Atatürk, who should be remembered respectfully for their contributions to our history, are being used to create social polarization instead of a shared memory.”
The arrest of A.E.S. follows a similar incident on Sept. 11, when a 16-year-old was arrested for vandalizing an Atatürk monument with spray paint.
The frequent prosecutions in Turkey under the banner of protecting Atatürk’s memory shed light on the general problem of restrictions on freedom of expression, as numerous individuals face daily legal consequences for expressing opinions on topics considered “taboo” in Turkey, including criticism of Atatürk and government actions.