Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu received a lot of criticism on social media late Tuesday after photos of him meeting British Ambassador Dominic Chilcott at a restaurant for dinner emerged as the city grappled with heavy snowfall that crippled life in the city.
After his photos surfaced on Twitter, users took to the platform to express their frustration as “#imamoğluistifa” (“Imamoğlu, Resign” in Turkish) began trending.
The mayor later issued a statement on social media, saying that “he was at the restaurant for an hour “during his break.”
“The snowfall affected the entire country in a negative way, not just Istanbul. The Ankara-Istanbul highway has been closed,” he said.
“In the new airport and connecting roads, problems are still continuing. But the media is only talking about the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB),” he said.
“The upset over losing Istanbul has reached such a level that my 1-hour dinner break is being talked about, even when I directed battle against the snow both on the ground and from the Disaster Coordination Center (AKOM) for 19 hours straight,” he said, referring to the 2019 local elections which he won to become the first Istanbul mayor from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) after decades.
“We have worked in coordination with our state and district municipalities so far and we will continue to do so.”
Speaking to news website GDH, the owner of the restaurant said that the reservation for the dinner was made 25 days ago and confirmed that the mayor stayed at the place for an hour, even though there were conflicting reports.
Yeni Şafak reporter Burak Doğan shared security camera footage, claiming that Imamoğlu stayed at the place for three hours.
In early 2020, the mayor was also criticized for a ski vacation after visiting the earthquake-hit Elazığ province.
Imamoğlu was not the only IBB official that was criticized on social media for perceived negligence as the city was battling a severe snowstorm.
It was also revealed that IBB spokesperson Murat Ongun is in Switzerland’s Geneva for vacation during the crisis.
Speaking to journalist Cüneyt Özdemir, Ongun confirmed that he is abroad and said sharing the fact that he was out of Turkey was a violation of his privacy.
Özdemir shared Ongun’s remarks in tweets. According to him, Ongun said, “Following the developments in Istanbul while abroad is not difficult at all.”