Kars statue kicks off controversy after Turkish PM's criticism

Erdoğan kicked off a new controversy after he described a statue in the eastern province of Kars as a "monstrosity," drawing an angry reaction from the sculptor.

Kars statue kicks off controversy after Turkish PM's criticism

World Bulletin / News Desk

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan kicked off a new controversy after he described a statue in the eastern province of Kars as a “monstrosity,” drawing an angry reaction from the sculptor, who says his work bears a "deep anti-war message."

Erdoğan criticized the monument on artistic grounds, saying: “They put a monstrosity there, next to the tomb of [Muslim scholar] Hasan Harakani. It is impossible to think that such a thing should exist next to fundamental works of art.”

The prime minister also said he hopes Kars Mayor Nevzat Bozkuş, who hails from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), will do what is necessary with the area in which the statue is located by the time of his next visit and build a park instead.

Bozkuş commented on the statue controversy, saying that a commission of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism had earlier decided to demolish the monument after it emerged that the statue was illegally constructed in a protected area. Stating that the relevant decision had not yet reached the municipality, he said he would abide by it as soon as it comes in and demolish the statue.

Culture and Tourism Minister Ertuğrul Günay also made a statement on the issue and said the statue will be demolished not because of Erdoğan's remarks but because its location breaks the law.

He also highlighted that the prime minister did not use the word “statue” but referred to the area in general. Noting that the sculptor is one of his friends, Günay said the statue is based on the message that “separation brings pain.” However, he said this message is not yet clear as the statue is still being constructed. He also confirmed that the statue was built in a protected area and that this had prevented its completion.

Mehmet Aksoy, the sculptor of the “Statue of Humanity,” strongly reacted to the prime minister's comment, saying his work carries "anti-war and friendship messages."

“I depicted the situation of a person that is divided in two. This person will be ‘himself' again when these two pieces are reunited. I want to express this. … You cannot immediately label this a ‘monstrosity.' It is shameful and unjust. One should understand what it says first,” he said.

Aksoy argued that a political dispute lies behind Erdoğan's opposition to his work. Stating that former Kars Mayor Naif Alibeyoğlu commissioned the statue, he said Alibeyoğlu recently parted ways with the AK Party and joined the Republican People's Party (CHP), which made the AK Party oppose whatever had been done by him. “The new mayor is trying to challenge the former mayor over me. This is not right. I am not a member of any party,” he said.

He also suggested that the municipality cannot dream of demolishing the statue, arguing that this would lead to "worldwide outrage". “This would lead to outrage they cannot even imagine. They will turn into the Taliban. Turkey will not want to have such an image,” he said, referring to the Taliban's decision to destroy Buddhist statues in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also agreed with Erdoğan and said the statue does not reflect Kars' rich cultural heritage.

“Kars has an architectural tradition inherited from the Ottomans and the Selçuks. This monument does not reflect that architecture. It does not befit these architectural aesthetics. Works in compliance with the architectural heritage of the region should be constructed,” he said.

Last Mod: 10 Ocak 2011, 17:51
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