A controversy has sparked over removing a statue of the Republic of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk at a major public area in the Black Sea province of Rize and replacing it with a tea glass-shaped statue as part of a reconstruction plan.
Ömer Toprak, the Rize provincial head of the Atatürkist Thought Association (ADD), a nongovernmental organization espousing the ideas of Atatürk, reacted with anger after Rize Mayor Reşat Kasap debated whether restoring the Atatürk statue would be ascertained by a referendum.
"It is neither acceptable nor understandable to hold a referendum to decide on the fate of a hallmark of the Republic" Toprak said, criticizing the replacement of the current Atatürk statue at Rize's central Cumhuriyet Square with a tea glass statue. Rize is known for the black tea leaves it produces.
The reconstruction project for the square was not a project of good will, but one that planned to debase Atatürk, Toprak said, slamming the referendum idea.
"What will they vote on? The Republic? Atatürk? There will be no benefit to get into conflict both with the Republic and its merits. The Republic, the Turkish flag and Atatürk... They're all our common values. There cannot be a referendum over common values. The mayor should change his mind on this," he said.
Kasap previously announced the Atatürk statue would be placed outside the Rize Governor's Office during the reconstruction, saying the moving of the statue back to the square would be decided by a referendum.
The controversy first started when the project, which Kasap announced as "the Meydan Project" as part of "the Top 10 Projects" during local elections, planned to replace the Atatürk statue with a tea glass figure.
"The Atatürk statue will not be removed, but will be relocated to the ceremony site outside the governor's office. After the reconstruction is complete at Cumhuriyet Square, the permanent location of the Atatürk statue will be decided by a referendum" Kasap said, responding to negative reactions to the removal of the statue.
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