Erdoğan and Süleyman Soylu

Erdoğan rejects resignation of Interior Minister due to curfew

Erdoğan refused to accept the resignation of the minister, who resigned on Sunday after criticism over images of people crowded on the streets for the proclamation of the curfew.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rejected on Sunday night the resignation submitted hours earlier by Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, following the declaration this past weekend of a curfew to prevent the spread of the coronavirus which has drawn numerous criticisms.

As reported by the press office of the Presidency of the Republic in a statement, the Turkish president did not accept Soylu’s resignation and therefore the minister will continue in office. “Süleyman Soylu, who was appointed Minister of the Interior immediately after the failed coup on July 15th (2016), has earned the appreciation of our nation with his successful work to date,” the statement said.

The official note praised Soylu’s role in significantly reducing the operational capacity of terrorist organisations such as the PKK, as well as his work in coordinating the emergency response to natural disasters such as earthquakes. It also highlighted the good work of the minister during the last month after the detection of the first cases of coronavirus in Turkey, guaranteeing public safety and the fight against COVID-19.

After announcing his resignation late Sunday, many Turks went to social media to ask for his continuation in office and expressing their support for him. “All responsibility for the implementation of the curfew rests with me,” explained the minister, speaking of his decision to proclaim a curfew on Friday night over the weekend, resulting in thousands of people collapsing streets and shops to buy food.

Queues and crowds of people without keeping safety distance

Soylu acknowledged when submitting his resignation that the scenes that were produced and that were widely disclosed on media, in which people appeared crowding in front of shops without keeping the mandatory safety distance and in many cases without a mask, showed that the curfew had not been properly applied.

“I should not have caused such scenes because of this event, the responsibility of which falls on us … I am leaving my position as Minister of the Interior, which I have honorably performed,” he added.

The 48-hour curfew announcement beginning at midnight on Friday was made just two hours earlier – at 10 p.m. – so many people rushed out to buy food and bread for the weekend before being locked up at home.

The scenes were especially serious in big cities like Istanbul, precisely where the highest number of infections is recorded in all of Turkey, where the streets were filled with traffic and long queues formed in front of bakeries, grocery stores, supermarkets and banks. Images on social media showed people without keeping any kind of separation and even without wearing a mask, something prohibited in public places.

The minister accepts criticism for what happened

Before announcing his resignation, in an interview with the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet, Soylu had accepted critics for what happened: “I accept them,” he said. “In that two-hour period, congestion occurred in some places. I couldn’t foresee this. I have experience, but I still didn’t think congestion at the time was going to be a big problem,” he explained.

“Our citizens thought that the ban (curfew) would be ongoing. That is why congestions (of people) occurred in some places. But I am sure of one thing: there will always be a risk, no matter what method let’s use,” added Soylu, confirming that between 250,000 and 300,000 people went out in those two hours on the street.

Regarding the application of the curfew due to the coronavirus, the Interior Minister reported on Sunday that 24,088 people had been denounced during the weekend for not abiding by the curfew; in addition, legal measures will also be taken against several stores, shops and other businesses that also did not respect the curfew and opened their doors.