Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in an unprecedented call asked mayoral candidates from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) to express hatred for fellow deputy and human rights activist Sezgin Tanrıkulu.
“Let the candidates such as Ekrem İmamoglu and Mansur Yavaş [opposition mayoral candidates for İstanbul and Ankara, respectively] say ‘I hate Tanrıkulu and deputies like him,” the minister said at an election event in Istanbul on Saturday, claiming that Tanrıkulu is a supporter of a terrorist organization. Soylu based his accusation on Tanrıkulu’s attendance at funerals of members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Soylu went further and urged opposition candidates to say that they are “disgusted” by being in the same party as Tanrıkulu.
Tanrıkulu reacted to the targeting by the interior minister on Twitter, saying Soylu was engaged in hate speech and threatening his safety. The deputy, who is an ardent defender of human rights in parliament, said he had never been intimidated by such threats in the past and would continue to do his job.
In reaction to the minister’s remarks and call to express contempt towards Tanrıkulu, a the hashtag #sezgintanrikulunuseviyoruz (We love Sezgin Tanrıkulu) went viral over the weekend on Twitter, with many supporting Tanrıkulu’s efforts to defend human rights for all in Turkey.