Istanbul, May 24 () - The presidency will deliver a new official car to Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) head Mehmet Görmez, President Tayyip Erdoğan has said, after the former said he would return his luxurious official vehicle.
“We have decided to make a gesture, a move which suits that position, in response to impoliteness towards our directorate of religious affairs” Erdoğan said in a televised interview.
Asked about the Mercedes which Erdoğan said the presidency would provide, Görmez only said, “Good Friday” to reporters on May 22.
Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş said that he wondered what Görmez would do with the luxury car.
“There is no meaning to consecrate the Diyanet. In the end, it’s a state institution,” Demirtaş said. He questioned the reason for the harsh reactions whenever the Diyanet is criticized, noting that the Education Ministry and Treasury were also criticized from time to time.
Görmez should be a model to society, rather than feeling bound to politics and the bureaucracy, he noted.
“A religious man should not take orders from either state or the government. He should be bound to the orders of Allah” he added.
Görmez, Turkey’s top cleric, has said he would return his 1 million Turkish Lira ($435,000) official car that was recently purchased, following strong criticism from opposition parties and the public. Yet, Erdoğan said he would have rejected the return of the car if had been informed beforehand.
The purchase of a Mercedes S500 sedan for the cleric, in addition to 14 Toyota cars for the Diyanet’s general directors and 16 minibuses for general use, elicited a strong reaction against the directorate.
The Diyanet announced on Dec. 13, 2014, that the purchases had been made with state funds, not with citizens’ private donations.
Earlier in December, Görmez was featured in international media when he met Pope Francis, during the latter’s historic visit to Turkey.
It was reported that the Turkish authorities had refused the Pope’s request for “a humble car” in Ankara on the grounds of security.
Nevertheless, in Istanbul, the pontiff surprised many onlookers when he arrived in a modest vehicle bearing a civilian license plate.