The chair of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kilicdaroglu was attacked by a mob at a soldier’s funeral in Ankara on Sunday.
Following a clash between the Turkish army and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) near the Iraqi border that left four soldiers dead, CHP Chair Kilicdaroglu attended the funeral of Private Yener Kirikci, one of the four killed during the clashes.
According to CHP officials, their leader was attacked by a mob during the funeral prayer, despite the presence of numerous security forces in their uniforms.
“None of them tried to protect us. The head of the police department was there. The provincial police chief was also there. There were many people dressed as police or gendarmerie,” said CHP’s deputy chair Yildirim Kaya.
Footage of an episode from the incident displays an angry group chanting, PKK out!, attacking Turkey’s main opposition leader. Several fists landed on Kilicdaroglu’s head, overwhelming the outnumbered guards’ efforts.
One of the perpetrators was later identified and turned out to be a member of the AKP. An Ankara court detained the attacker, named Osman Sarigun. The AK party announced that it has started a disciplinary probe to expel Sarigun from the party.
The CHP leader took refuge in a nearby house for more than one hour, before being escorted away by armored vehicles.
“I will not step back even an inch. I am ready to give my life for this country,” Kilicdaroglu said.
People on social media lashed the Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu after the incident calling for his resignation.
In 2018 Soylu said that he had ordered governors to keep CHP officials out of soldiers’ funerals, advising CHP members to attend PKK militants’ funerals instead.
Soylu’s remarks, along with President Tayyip Erdogan and his ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli’s harsh discourse during the election period that equated the opposition with the PKK over an alleged tacit alliance with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), are believed by many critics to be the main catalysts that led to the attack.
“Outrageous mob attack against opposition leader @kilicdarogluk. Likely inspired by hate speeches of ruling politicians. This radical polarization must end. Turkey is so much better than this,” posted EU Turkey Rapporteur Kati Piri.
Outrageous mob attack against opposition leader @kilicdarogluk.
Likely inspired by hate speeches of ruling politicians. This radical polarization must end. Turkey is so much better than this.
— Kati Piri (@KatiPiri) April 21, 2019
As the result of systematic hate speech campaign, Turkey's opposition leader @kilicdarogluk was exposed to lynching attempt. Crowds shout to burn the house Mr Kilicdaroglu is taken to. pic.twitter.com/nqJOGvF5bY
— The Arrested Lawyers (@ArrestedLawyers) April 21, 2019
CHP’s latest victory in Istanbul and Ankara in the local election dealt a blow to Erdogan’s ruling AK Party, which resulted in a smear campaign against new mayors of both cities, led by several pro-government newspapers.
Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu’s remarks that praised jailed HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas were lambasted by the pro-government Gunes daily which after the death of the four soldiers came up with a headline “Are you happy Imamoglu?” accusing him of the attack.
After the attack on Kilicdaroglu, Gunes daily’s headline received backlash even from within AKP ranks with MP Mustafa Yeneroglu taking on the newspaper’s headline.
“This is paving the way for attacks. This is not journalism. Don’t do it! Shame!”
Devlet Bahceli also denounced the attack, although he also criticized Kilicdaroglu and called on the CHP leader to ponder on the reasons for this attack. So far, no official statement denouncing the attack came from Erdogan.
Former president Abdullah Gul denounced the incident from his Twitter account, underlining the dangers of hate speech that dominated the political sphere during the election period.
Following the attack, #Madimak became a worldwide trend on Twitter, alluding to the Madimak Hotel massacre that saw the deaths of 33 intellectuals who were burned alive by an angry mob chanting Islamist slogans during a minority festival in 1993 in Central Anatolian Sivas city.
The public prosecutor of Ankara announced that it launched a probe into the attack.
Kilicdaroglu said on Monday that he thinks the attack was premeditated and was a bid to incite CHP members to commit violence.
Suleyman Soylu announced that the 9 detained related to the attack, and labeled the incident as a “protest” against Kilicdaroglu.