Muhammet Kaçar / Rize, Sep 22 () - A controversy has sparked over removing a statue of Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk at a major public area in the Black Sea province of Rize and placing a tea glass-shaped statue instead, in a reconstruction plan.
Ömer Toprak, the Rize provincial head of the Atatürkist Thought Association (ADD), a non-governmental organization espousing the ideas of Atatürk, angrily reacted after Rize Mayor Reşat Kasap debated whether putting the Atatürk statue back would be ascertained by a referendum.
“It is neither acceptable nor understandable to hold a referendum to decide on the fate of a hallmark of the Republic” Toprak said, criticizing placing a tea glass statue in place of the current Atatürk statue at Rize’s central Cumhuriyet Square. Rize is known for mass production of black tea leaves.
The reconstruction project for the square was not a project of good will, but one that planned to “live down” Atatürk, Toprak said, slamming the referendum idea.
“What will they vote on? The Republic? Atatürk? There will be no benefit to get into conflict both with the Republic and its merits. The Republic, the Turkish flag and Atatürk... They’re all our common values. There cannot be referendum over common values. The mayor should change his mind on this,” he said.
Kasap previously announced the Atatürk statue would be placed outside the Rize Governor’s Office during the reconstruction, saying the moving of the statue back to the square would be ascertained with a referendum.
The controversy first sparked when the project, which Kasap announced as “the Meydan Project” as part of “the Top 10 Projects” during local elections, planned to replace the Atatürk statue with a tea glass figure.
“The Atatürk statue will not be removed, but will be placed at the ceremony site outside the governor’s office. After the reconstruction is complete in Cumhuriyet Square, where to place the Atatürk statue permanently will be ascertained with a referendum” Kasap said, responding to negative reactions to the removal of the Atatürk statue.