Outspoken Turkish opposition deputy of the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TIP), Baris Atay, was on Monday viciously attacked by a group of people in the Kadikoy district of Istanbul.
The 39-year-old politician, a longtime harsh critic of the ruling Turkish government, required hospital treatment after reportedly being kicked and punched by persons unknown in a busy street during the early hours of the morning.
The attack came a day after Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu had targeted Atay on social media for his criticism of authorities over the release a man alleged to have raped a Kurdish woman, a move that had triggered widespread public anger.
Soylu had claimed he did not protect rapists and branded Atay a “leftover” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
In a testimony given to police while receiving treatment for his injuries in hospital, Atay, who was due to hold a press conference on Tuesday, said: “The culprit of this attack is Suleyman Soylu who directly targeted me upon my criticism.”
In mid-June, the TIP launched an investigation after claiming Atay’s car had been sabotaged in a deliberate attempt to cause the vehicle to crash.
Atay, a former professional actor, has been a long-standing critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, fiercely voicing his views in parliament especially since the anti-government Gezi Park protests in the country during the summer of 2013.
In June 2017, he was briefly arrested over charges of insulting Yusuf Yerkel when the former adviser to the Turkish prime minister was photographed kicking a protester during demonstrations about a coal mine disaster.
Zulfu Livaneli, a former parliamentarian from the main opposition CHP, said: “Society is being pulled into a level of unreasonable violence. The attack against Baris Atay is one of the turning points.”
In 2013, Atay was also detained in Istanbul over accusations of links to computer hacker group RedHack – that denied the claim – but was released three days later.
Cihangir Islam, an independent deputy from Istanbul who recently resigned from the opposition Felicity Party, told Arab News: “We represent the nation. We keep the government accountable and ask the rulers what the public asks from us to do.
“Here an appointed person keeps threatening an elected deputy. It is a tragic event. In Turkey, the violence becomes a mainstream language and deputies seem to be vulnerable to such a violence that can be committed in the middle of a street in Istanbul. This is actually a red alarm for a regime.”
Turkey’s parliament speaker, Mustafa Sentop, condemned the attack, and said: “A physical assault to a parliamentarian is unacceptable.”
However, Islam said: “He (Sentop) should be a strict follower of this assault and push the authorities to reveal the identity of the perpetrators. Instead, we will follow the investigation closely.”
Turkish citizens on Monday used the Twitter hashtag #BarisAtayYalnızDegildir (Baris Atay is not alone) to show their support for Atay. arabnews