ANKARA: A journalist and a politician were targeted by armed gangs in Ankara in broad daylight on Friday, sparking debates on the safety and security of Turkish opposition figures in the country.
Orhan Uguroglu, the Ankara representative of dissident nationalist paper Yenicag Daily, was badly beaten when he was getting into his vehicle on Friday by three people.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it condemned the aggression “in the heaviest way” and called for the politics that fueled such violence to end “before it is too late.”
The attack came just a couple of hours after Selcuk Ozdag, deputy head of the breakaway Future Party, faced a bloody attack by an armed gang in front of his house when he was heading to the nearby mosque for Friday prayers.
Ozdag is a former lawmaker from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), and among the founding members of the Future Party.
An outspoken critic of the Turkish government, Ozdag was recently verbally attacked by Semih Yalcin, deputy head of the ruling government’s coalition partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Yalcin accused Ozdag of being a “traitor” and “acting like a chameleon.”
During the attack, Ozdag’s driver was first attacked by a gang member, while the politician was seriously beaten with sticks and pistol butts. The attackers then ran away in a vehicle without a registration plate.
A month ago, the house of Ayhan Sefer Ustun, another politician from the same party, was attacked by an armed assailant in northwestern Sakarya province, whilst Ustun and his family were out.
Ustun is also the vice chairman of Future Party and a former AKP deputy chairman.
Founded by Turkey’s former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in 2019, the Future Party is the first breakaway political movement from the AKP that drew the ire of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The party’s electoral base is widening gradually and it appeals to the disillusioned AKP and MHP voters.
Speaking to Arab News, Ustun, who previously headed the parliamentary Human Rights Commission, said Turkey had seen enough rising polarization.
“We witnessed such violent acts many times in our recent history. The government and its coalition partner are systematically fueling this dangerous political disengagement within society. The criminal gangs are freed from jails and the mafia is flocked into the streets to beat whoever they want,” Ustun said, citing an amnesty law that was adopted last year, which led to tens of thousands of prisoners being released from Turkey’s overcrowded prisons, including organized ultra-nationalist criminal gang members. The idea of the amnesty was first raised by the MHP.
At the time, critics predicted that the law would help the gangs, who are associated with the MHP, to capture the streets, including naming one, Alaattin Cakici, who was behind bars for crimes ranging from ordering assassinations, money laundering and leading an illegal armed group.
Cakici, once freed, began threatening the leader of the main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, saying, “he should watch his step.”
According to Ustun, those gangs who dare to beat people in the middle of the capital city feel themselves above the law, and similar acts are becoming more and more unaccountable under Turkish law.
“The ruling government also has a responsibility. They knowingly empowered these gangs without any accountability. We should now ask where Turkey is heading. These gangs are standing among us like hand-grenades without a pin,” he said.