President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan targeted the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) on Wednesday, saying that although any services that would improve the country are welcomed, attacks on the nation's values, history and culture cannot be accepted.
"We have never dealt with and will never deal with anyone's roots, beliefs, culture or lifestyle. However, we also cannot let anyone intervene in our beliefs, values and culture. If the CHP plans to return to the fascist practices of the 1940s, we already express that this is a wrong idea," Erdoğan said during the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) parliamentary group meeting.
Erdoğan's criticism targeted an event hosted by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) on Dec. 17 during which the Muslim holy book, the Quran, was read aloud in Turkish rather than in its original Arabic language to commemorate the death of Islamic scholar Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi. The anniversary of his death is known as Şeb-i Arus (The Wedding Night). The IBB is currently led by the CHP.
The incident received major criticism on social media with many labeling it as a disrespectful action and pointing out its resemblance to the CHP's practices during the single-party period in the early years of the republic, when the adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, was read in Turkish for a decade.
"They think that they are still in the single-party era when they kept everyone in line," the president said.
The debate on whether the adhan should be recited in Turkish or Arabic dominated local politics between 1932 and 1950 when the CHP's single-party rule forced mosques to recite it in Turkish. The period is mostly remembered as infamous among the Turkish people, and since then, the CHP has expressed numerous times that those days are in the past. Still, the party's struggle with its past actions continues to haunt it even today, as the issue surfaces now and then.
In 2018, the CHP dismissed a party deputy, Öztürk Yılmaz, for defending the Turkish version of the adhan. The party said at the time that Yılmaz's words do not represent the CHP's views, and the party was completely against any idea that contradicts people's common values.
Referring to the recent sexual harassment claims within the CHP, Erdoğan said that while there are such accusations, it is absurd for the CHP to still mention their mayors' "so-called success."
"If the CHP has even the slightest shame, it should not face the people without clearing itself from these sexual harassment, rape and robbery claims," the president said.
The CHP is in deep water as a string of allegations of sexual misconduct in multiple provincial and district structures of the party has come to light in recent days. However, while the government and the ruling party are working to shed light on the cases, the CHP continues to maintain its mostly silent stance on the issue. The few statements that have come from CHP authorities deny all the allegations.
The CHP's group deputy chairperson, Engin Altay, said on Dec. 16 that the claims are nothing but "gossip."
One of the key names that brought the harassment allegations to the fore was Barış Yarkadaş, a former CHP deputy and journalist. Yarkadaş not only reported the claims on both social media and TV but also accused CHP Istanbul Chairperson Canan Kaftancıoğlu of covering up the incidents. Soon after, Yarkadaş's TV show on the CHP-aligned Halk TV channel went off-air.