Turkey’s opposition leaders have criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over what they say was a feeble reaction to US President Joe Biden’s recognition of the massacre of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire as genocide.
Erdoğan on Monday denounced the remarks of Biden, who became the first US leader to use the term genocide in an annual message on the anniversary of the 1915-1916 massacres on April 24, as “groundless” and “unfair.”
Opposition leaders said Erdoğan’s reaction to Biden’s landmark move was an understatement, questioning the president’s motives for what they thought was the downplaying of the incident.
“We are faced with a person who is incapable of defending his own country’s interests. ‘Would something happen to me if I spoke a little more harshly?’ [he thinks],” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said during a parliamentary group meeting on Tuesday.
“Erdoğan is a world leader. He is a lion. Everyone hears him when he roars,” the CHP leader said sarcastically, adding that when he spoke up against Biden’s genocide recognition, the president “meowed like a kitten, instead of roaring like a lion.”
Kılıçdaroğlu also accused Erdoğan of remaining silent for three days following Biden’s statement, when the Turkish president’s “army of online trolls” was taunting him on social media, waiting for the opposition leader’s reaction to the genocide recognition.
“The Erdoğan that we know, the world leader who boasts about showing his teeth to everyone who irritates him, is gone and all we have now is a well-behaved, cute, adorable little ‘Mr. Erdogan’,” Meral Akşener, the nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party leader, said Tuesday during her party’s parliamentary group meeting.
“The Erdoğan who used to be angered by even the wind contented himself, in this instance, with only calling the US president ‘Mr. Biden,’ instead of boldly asking him, ‘Biden, who are you [to recognize the massacre of Armenians as genocide]?’” Akşener said.
The Turkish nation, however, expected the leader of the government to take a firm stance against the mud slung at their history, the İYİ leader added, urging Erdoğan not to be afraid, to build up his courage and to speak up in the way the citizens are waiting for him to do.
All the parties in the Turkish Parliament, except the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), deny the Armenian genocide and have reacted angrily to the US in the wake of its recognition of the massacre as genocide.
Parliament on Tuesday adopted a motion condemning Biden’s recent move, calling on him to retract his statement and support efforts by the Turkish and Armenian peoples to live in peace and safety.
The Armenians — supported by historians and scholars — say 1.5 million of their people died in a genocide committed under the Ottoman Empire during World War I.
Although Turkey accepts that both Armenians and Turks died in huge numbers as Ottoman forces fought czarist Russia, the country vehemently denies a deliberate policy of genocide and notes that the term had not been legally defined at the time.