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22 percent of Turks consider Hamas a terrorist organization: survey

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A recent survey conducted in Turkey found that 22 percent of respondents consider Palestinian militant group Hamas a terrorist organization, the Kısa Dalga news website reported Friday.

On Oct. 7 Hamas militants from the Palestinian enclave of Gaza launched an unprecedented surprise attack in Israel that claimed more than 1,400 lives. Israel then began bombarding Gaza, which has so far claimed more than 6,500 lives, according to local health authorities.

Optimar Research conducted the survey Oct. 15-18 in 26 provinces on 2,000 participants.

The survey showed a divided public opinion in Turkey regarding the classification of Hamas.

While 22 percent view the group as terrorist, 20 percent see it as an “Islamic formation” and 19 percent consider it an “independence movement.”

Fourteen percent perceive it as a political organization, according to the Optimar survey.

The survey comes on the heels of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s controversial remarks defending Hamas as “liberators” fighting for their land. Erdoğan’s comments have sparked a wave of international reactions, including criticism from Israel, the United States and several European leaders.

Domestically, reactions to Erdoğan’s remarks were mixed.

Özgür Özel, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) parliamentary group who is running for party leadership, criticized Erdoğan’s refusal to call Hamas a terrorist organization. “We strongly reject Tayyip Erdoğan’s refusal to recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization. We consider this an extremely shameful course of action for Turkey,” he said.

Meral Akşener, leader of the nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party, stressed that all politicians in Turkey were against the loss of life, atrocities, killing and murder in Gaza and stood by the people of Gaza. However, she stressed that she does not find Erdoğan’s defense of Hamas tolerable.

“In my opinion, we must condemn Hamas’s actions because civilians have died there as well,” Akşener said, adding that Erdoğan’s remarks were aimed at dividing the public for political gain ahead of the 2024 local elections.

​Temel Karamollaoğlu, chairman of the Islamic-rooted opposition Felicity Party (FP), on the other hand, supported Erdoğan’s stance.

“I do not consider Hamas a terrorist organization. President Erdoğan also made that clear in his recent speech,” Karamollaoğlu stated.

Canada, the European Union, Israel, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States label Hamas as a terrorist organization. New Zealand and Paraguay classify only its military wing as such. Brazil, China, Egypt, Iran, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Syria and Turkey do not consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

NATO member Turkey’s Western allies have time and again criticized what they see as the government of Turkish President Erdoğan providing a safe haven for Hamas officials and members.

According to an Oct. 22 article in the Washington-based Al-Monitor, Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’s political bureau, was in İstanbul on Oct. 7, contradicting previous reports that he was in his office in Doha, Qatar.

Two different sources told Al-Monitor that Haniyeh was politely sent away after footage circulated on social media showing him and other Hamas members prostrating themselves in a “prayer of gratitude” while watching news of the incursion on television. Erdoğan’s communications directorate has denied the claims.

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