Pro-gov’t daily admits ‘fake’ reports of attack on headscarved woman by Gezi protestors

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The radical Islamist, pro-government Yeni Akit newspaper has admitted in a report that claims of a physical attack on a headscarf-wearing woman on the docks at Kabataş by Gezi protestors during the anti-government demonstrations of summer 2013 were “lies,” Turkish media reported on Thursday.

Many pro-government journalists and press outlets, in addition to then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had previously claimed that Zehra Develioğlu, daughter-in-law of then-mayor of İstanbul’s Bahçelievler district Osman Develioğlu from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), was attacked by an anti-government mob during Gezi protests.

They alleged that dozens of half-naked men had attacked and urinated on Develioğlu, who was waiting for her husband, along with her six-month-old baby, in Kabataş on June 1, 2013.

Although the footage from security cameras at the scene, which emerged months later, showed no evidence of such an attack, the claims had been reawakened by Erdoğan multiple times and occasionally resurfaced in the pro-government media for some time afterward.

Because she recently stopped wearing a headscarf, Yeni Akit on Thursday targeted Elif Çakır, a then-pro-government journalist for the Star daily who released an interview with Develioğlu that incited hatred among pro-AKP circles towards Gezi protestors, based on claims first made public by Erdoğan.

Yeni Akit, one of the pro-government dailies that had covered the fabricated attack in Kabataş, on Thursday published the headline “She has evolved: After Kabataş, Elif Çakır’s headscarf also turned out to be a lie,” admitting after eight years that the journalist’s claims were lies “aimed at provocation.”

The report was described by many as an attempt by the pro-government media to evade the responsibility of having published fake news regarding an incident that turned out to be a lie by pinning the blame on Çakır, currently a columnist for the Karar daily, which is critical of the AKP government.

Journalist and media ombudsman Faruk Bildirici on Thursday reminded in a blog post that 15 columns in five different pro-government newspapers bore the same headline on March 5, 2015: “Your language is shameless, your conscience is as hard as a stone,” with wordplay in Turkish as the words “shameless” (kaba) and “stone” (taş) make up the word “Kabataş,” referring to the scene of the alleged attack.

”After Yeni Akit’s confession … it’s the turn of the [pro-government] Sabah, Yeni Şafak, Star and Türkiye dailies to do the same. If their language isn’t shameless and their consciences not as hard as a stone, they will apologize [for publishing the columns and reports on a fabricated incident],” Bildirici added.

Although Erdoğan claimed he had footage showing the moments of the attack, the video has never surfaced, thus leading many to argue that the discredited claims were an attempt by Erdoğan to demonize Gezi protestors and get more support from the pious people in the society during the anti-government demonstrations.

The protests in 2013 erupted over the AKP government’s plans to demolish Gezi Park in Taksim. They quickly turned into mass anti-government demonstrations that were violently suppressed by the government, leading to the death of 11 protestors due to the use of disproportionate force by the police.

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