May 10, 2019 / 3:52 PM / 12 days ago

Turkish artists stand by Istanbul's ousted mayor

ANKARA (Reuters) - Dozens of Turkey’s most prominent artists have taken to social media to support Istanbul’s ousted mayor, responding to his call for them to speak out against a decision to annul his election victory over President Tayyip Erdogan’s party.

FILE PHOTO: Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), who was elected mayor after the March 31 elections, addresses his supporters after the High Election Board (YSK) decided to re-run the mayoral election, in Istanbul, Turkey, May 6, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo

Ekrem Imamoglu had been in office less than three weeks when Turkey’s High Election Board (YSK) on Monday ordered a re-run of the election, citing irregularities, after weeks of appeals by Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party.

“They say artists shouldn’t speak. No, they will speak up,” Imamoglu said in an impassioned speech after the decision. “Now is the time to talk, now is the time to speak up.”

The 48-year-old politician from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), displaying what is becoming a trademark stubborn optimism in the face of heavy odds, concluded his speech by saying: “Don’t worry, everything will be all right”.

The following day that slogan in Turkish, #HerSeyCokGuzelOlacak, was posted over a million times on Twitter.

“I couldn’t sleep last night. But, the light coming from the horizon in the morning was brighter than ever. I understood that #HerSeyCokGuzelOlacak,” Tarkan, one of Turkey’s best-known singers, tweeted on Tuesday.

Comedian and filmmaker Cem Yilmaz posted a shot from his 1998 movie of the same title, while Gokhan Ozoguz of the rock group Athena, which represented Turkey in the 2004 Eurovision song contest, tweeted: “All we want is rights, law, justice, and #HerSeyCokGuzelOlacak”.

Imamoglu has described the June 23 election re-run as a battle for democracy in Turkey, which Erdogan has ruled for the last 16 years with an ever tighter grip. Before the result was annulled, the rare defeat for the country’s dominant politician had given hope to an opposition worn down by years of setbacks at the ballot box.

“All segments of population, all of us, hand in hand, together to good days... #HerSeyCokGuzelOlacak,” said Yilmaz Erdogan, another prominent actor and director. Actor Cem Davran said he would cast his vote “again, again, again, again... #HerSeyCokGuzelOlacak”.

‘INGRATES’

As the campaign grew this week, it drew backlash from the government. On Tuesday, Presidential Archives Director Muhammet Safi posted a picture on Twitter of a list with the names of the artists who supported Imamoglu. He later locked his account, meaning his posts are no longer visible to the public.

The move prompted Imamoglu’s party to ask the government whether Safi had been ordered to collect the names and whether the presidency would take legal steps against the artists.

The government has yet to respond to the CHP’s inquiry.

The AK Party’s mayor for the central province of Nevsehir said the artists would not be allowed to perform in his city.

FILE PHOTO: Ekrem Imamoglu of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), who was elected mayor after the March 31 elections, addresses his supporters after the High Election Board (YSK) decided to re-run the mayoral election, in Istanbul, Turkey, May 6, 2019. REUTERS/Murad Sezer/File Photo

AKP lawmaker and former motorcycle racer Kenan Sofuoglu said, “Shame on you ingrates! You are each millionaires, have luxurious lives and millions of followers thanks to Recep Tayyip Erdogan”.

The artists, however, responded jokingly to the backlash.

“This can’t be, why am I third in the list and not first,” actress Berna Lacin tweeted, referring to Safi’s list. “Fights will break out now. It’s not even alphabetical, recount it.”

Editing by Dominic Evans and Frances Kerry

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