Main opposition leader ignores protest of mother whose son was arrested post-coup

Chairman of the Republican People's Party (CHP) Özgür Özel gestures as he addresses a speech at his party's group meeting at the Turkish parliament on November 14, 2023. (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

Özgür Özel, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), ignored Sevinç Çakır, who was protesting in front of the Justice Ministry in Ankara on Wednesday over the arrest of her son after a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, Turkish Minute reported on Thursday, citing the Bold Medya news website.

Özel, accompanied by a delegation including CHP MP Sezgin Tanrıkulu, on Wednesday visited Emine Şenyaşar, an activist who has been demanding justice for three family members murdered by people connected to a lawmaker from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Şanlıurfa province in 2018.

Esvet Şenyaşar and his two sons, Adil and Celal, were brutally murdered on June 14, 2018 in Şanlıurfa.

They were initially shot in their store and taken to a hospital. However, they were followed by the family of AKP deputy İbrahim Halil Yıldız to the hospital, where they were ultimately murdered. Eight more people were injured during fights between the two groups. An older brother of Yıldız was also killed.

Two brothers of the Şenyaşar family, Ferit and Fadıl, who were injured but survived, were later detained, and Fadıl Şenyaşar was arrested.

Şenyaşar and her son Ferit, who began a sit-in in March 2021 in front of the courthouse in Şanlıurfa, have been holding their protest outside the Justice Ministry for over four months.

The CHP leader told Şenyaşar and her son during the visit in front of the ministry that the AKP government had “turned a blind eye” to a massacre committed openly before everyone’s eyes, expressing support for their “just struggle.” He added that he would discuss the issue with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan next week.

In contrast to his attitude toward the Şenyaşar family, Özel ignored Çakır, who was also protesting in front of the ministry for the release of her son – a trainee lieutenant when he was arrested – 20 meters away from the Şenyaşars, and quickly left the scene without visiting with her, according to Bold Medya.

Çakır, who started her sit-in more than a month ago, said on X that the CHP leader intentionally chose not to visit with her although he was informed about her vigil.

“Whoever took part in the July 15 [attempted coup], [those people] should be sentenced to life. I want freedom for my son,” said the banner Çakır was holding during the protest.

President Erdoğan’s AKP government initiated a massive purge of state institutions following the 2016 coup attempt. Over 130,000 civil servants lost their jobs due to suspected ties to “terrorist organizations.” The people who were fired also faced barriers to employment in the private sector and restrictions on obtaining passports.

The Turkish government blames the Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, for the 2016 coup attempt.

The group denies involvement in the abortive putsch and describes itself as a peaceful civil society organization focused on education, charity and interfaith dialogue.

However, the government has classified it as a terrorist organization and has since arrested thousands of people associated with it, including journalists, academics and civil servants.

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