Volkan Konak, a Turkish folk singer, lashed out at a mayor from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) over claims that Ekrem Imamoglu, Istanbul’s ousted mayor, is of Greek origin, the T24 news portal reported on Wednesday.
Tevfik Goksu, an AKP mayor of Istanbul’s Esenler district, recently claimed that main opposition secular Republican People’s Party (CHP)’s Imamoglu, who was born in the Black Sea province of Trabzon, is a Pontic Greek.
In a speech during an iftar dinner event in Istanbul, Goksu said: “What did the Greek media say [about the results of the Istanbul mayoral race]? They said: ‘The Greek won in Istanbul.’ Wait a minute, where is CHP’s candidate from, then? The game [being played on Turkey] is big, the [foreign countries’] gain is big, my brothers.”
A number of Greek media outlets had previously claimed Imamoglu was a Pontic Greek and announced his mayoral victory in Istanbul as a conquest.
Proto Thema, the most widely read weekly paper in Greece, covered CHP candidate’s mayoral election win with the headline: “Ekrem Imamoglu: The ‘Greek’ who ‘conquered’ Istanbul”.
Following Goksu’s claims about Imamoglu, singer Konak, who was also born in Trabzon, criticized the AKP mayor on Twitter and argued that he should mind his own business rather than questioning people’s patriotism.
“It’s not a shame to be Greek or Pontic… However, it’s very disrespectful to act like a racist and a tactless person and claim that certain people [inluding Imamoglu] from Trabzon are Pontic Greeks in order to receive a few more votes,” underlined Konak.
“We won’t let anyone question our devotion to our nation. That mayor should mind his own business,” he added.
Another singer from Trabzon, Apolas Lermi, also reacted to Goksu’s remarks about Imamoglu and blamed the AKP government for making the same claim about himself in the past.
“Back in the day, these same fanatics [from the ruling AKP] also made people [journalists] call me ‘the singer of Pontus’ in newspaper headlines,” Lermi said.
Pontus is a region on the southern coast of the Black Sea, located in modern-day eastern Black Sea Region of Turkey.
“When a person from Trabzon succeeds in what he does without giving into bigotry, he is regarded as a Greek or a Pontic or whatever by them [the government],” he argued.
When asked about the Goksu’s remarks, Imamoglu on Wednesday told reporters that AKP members “have lowered themselves completely.”
“Take care of your streets. Take care of your parks [in Esenler]. Create environments where people can live humanely. Let go of Ekrem Imamoglu. People have already loved Imamoglu,” he said, addressing the Esenler mayor.
Imamoglu won the mayoral race in Istanbul with a slight margin against AKP’s Binali Yildirim in the March 31 local government polls.
The governing AKP, who lost Turkey’s business hub where Erdogan started his political career as a mayor, submitted a number of appeals to Turkey’s top electoral board.
The appeals demanding vote recounts in all districts of Istanbul were followed by an extraordinary objection to the results of Istanbul’s mayoral elections.
As a consequence of AKP’s objection, which included claims of widespread voting irregularities, the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) annulled the mayoral polls and ordered a re-run in Istanbul on June 23.
The official mayoral mandate of Imamoglu was also voided and he was forced to step down following the YSK ruling.