A Turkish sculptor condemned Turkey’s government and accused it of playing the nationalist card as it began dismantling on Tuesday his controversial statue designed to promote reconciliation with Armenia.
“I feel very bad as a sculptor because they are destroying art and the artist, they are destroying our hope for peace together with that monument,” Mehmet Aksoy told RFE/RL’s Armenian service in Istanbul.
“The authorities are saying that they want peace, but that is a game. They are lying,” he charged.
Reports from the northeastern Turkish city of Kars said local authorities took down the first piece, which is one of two heads of the 30-meter statue, depicting two figures emerging from one human shape.
A witness told the AFP news agency that the dismantled piece weighing 19 tons was cut and brought down by a crane. The entire demolition process should take 10 days.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ordered the demolition when he visited Kars in January. He described the monument as a “monstrosity” that overshadows a nearby Islamic shrine.
Aksoy claimed that Erdogan is simply keen to earn his Justice and Development Party (AKP) more votes in general elections due this summer. “This looked like a message to the nationalists,” he said. “They’ll now say, ‘See, Erdogan is good, he is a nationalist, let’s vote for him.’”
The demolition order has prompted strong criticism from some opponents of Erdogan’s government and prominent Turkish artists. One of them, Bedri Baykam, was stabbed and hospitalized last week immediately after attending a meeting that discussed actions in support of the statue.