President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his spouse have phoned the Nationalist Movement Party's (MHP) Meral Akşener to state their support for the opposition deputy, after a pro-government commentator claimed she had been blackmailed with an inappropriate video recording.
The Erdoğans called Akşener on Thursday and told the deputy that the campaign against her is unacceptable.
Akşener said in televised remarks on Thursday that she has also received calls from the wives of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and former President Abdullah Gül. She said Sare Davutoğlu and Hayrünnisa Gül, the wives of the current prime minister and former president, respectively, expressed support during the calls.
The allegation, which has been widely denounced, was made during a program aired on the staunchly pro-government television station A Haber on Sunday night by commentator Latif Erdoğan, an ex-follower of the Hizmet movement, also called the Gülen movement as it is inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. Erdoğan, who has been ferociously defaming the movement since he parted ways with it, was responding to a question from another commentator, Cemil Barlas, on whether Akşener's anti-government views expressed during a recent program broadcast on a television station affiliated with the Gülen movement were due to her being blackmailed by the Gülen movement with a “tape.” Erdoğan claimed this was indeed the case, without offering evidence to back his allegation.
Akşener, a 59-year-old veteran politician widely respected across the political spectrum, has refuted the claim as a “sordid smear” and has denounced the two pro-government commentators for assaulting her dignity. The allegation has been condemned by several politicians, including the co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş, and Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).
In remarks aired on Fox TV, Akşener said Mrs. Gül made it clear that she called on behalf of both herself and her husband. “Men are a bit shy about [speaking about] it, that's what I've observed. That's why they refrain from calling me -- and so their wives call,” she said.
The MHP lawmaker also insisted that she was not being blackmailed by the Gülen movement, as Prime Minister Davutoğlu has recently suggested. “I would like to make this correction because Davutoğlu mentioned blackmail tapes,” she said.
Akşener said she was subject to the attack in order to hinder the rise of her party ahead of the June 7 parliamentary election and because of her open criticism of government corruption that was exposed by a major graft probe that erupted on Dec. 17, 2013, which implicated people in the inner circle of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time.
Erdoğan branded the probe as a “coup attempt” to unseat his government by followers of the Gülen movement and foreign collaborators. Thousands of police officers, judges and prosecutors have been reassigned or removed from duty in the wake of the scandal. The probe was dropped after new prosecutors and judges were assigned to the case and four former ministers implicated in the investigation were cleared by votes of AK Party lawmakers in Parliament in January.
Akşener also said the attack on her was also an attack on women's participation in politics. “This is an attempt to drive women out of politics. I am one of the first people to stand up against gender attacks on women. I will continue to strive for more women going into politics,” she said.
She offered details about the toll the blackmail claim has taken on her personal life as well. “I am 59 years old, living with my mother-in-law and I am about to be a grandmother,” she said, continuing. “Years from now, my grandchild will see this on the Internet.”
Akşener said her mother-in-law has been deeply saddened, too. “She has been praying for me all the time,” the politician said, vowing to continue with her “struggle” as long as her family supports her.
Women's platforms condemn claim targeting Akşener, say intimidation against all women
The Journalists and Writers Foundation's (GYV) Women's Platform and a number of other women's associations on Thursday condemned the allegation by the pro-government commentator against Akşener, saying, “The unacceptable attack is not only an attempt at political perception management but is also an [act of] intimidation against all women.”
In a statement released on Thursday, multiple women's organizations defined Akşener as a powerful role model for the Turkish nation due to her character and standing.
“We strongly condemn slanderers who insult a person's honor, display their own ugliness by perpetrating dirty acts of slander, try to deprive women of their freedom, attempt to hide the truth with the help of perception management and turn off their conscience for their political gain,” the women's associations said.
The organizations underlined that Akşener's highlighting of the deficits of the country's current anti-democratic system, taking a firm stance against unlawful practices despite pressures and obstacles, and her voicing claims of corruption loudly bothered the pro-government circles.
“Defaming a person's chastity for political interest is one of the biggest acts of immorality [a person can] do,” the statement said, adding that the pro-government media's efforts to keep the allegation on the agenda will not change the truth that people know about the “dirty” game that is being played against Akşener.
Published on Today's Zaman, 14 May 2015, Thursday