Erhan Arikli, the north’s ‘transport minister’ on Saturday repeated for a third time controversial comments wherein he branded people criticising him on social media as “mentally ill”, hitting out at ‘parliamentary’ opposition leader Tufan Erhurman.
In a comment under a post on Facebook written by Erhurman, Arikli wrote “your contribution to the upbringing of those mentally ill ones is great, Mr Erhurman.”
He added, “as for me being a minister, I didn’t ask you when I became an MP and I didn’t ask for your permission when I became a minister, but if you wish, I can get your permission for the comments I make on social media from now on.”
Arikli had initially raised eyebrows and branded others as “mentally ill” on Friday with a comment on a Facebook post regarding the planting of indigenous plants at Ercan (Tymbou) airport.
A number of people reacted negatively to the news, suggesting that “basic problems at the airport should be solved” before flowers be planted.
Arikli’s reply to those negative comments was that “when I read some of these comments, I can’t help but ask ‘how did we raise so many mentally ill people in such a short time?’”
Erhurman reacted in kind, saying “of course, we make serious effort to protect our mental health in this country where people like you carry titles such as ‘minister’, but the real question is how did these people become ‘ministers’ in this country?”
Despite the backlash, Arikli doubled down on Friday evening, writing in a new Facebook post that “after social media became widespread, many mentally ill people have phones in their hands. They fire volley left and right from morning to night with the understanding of ‘today, no matter who I insult. I will satisfy myself.’”
“Today, there was a news item about landscaping done at Ercan airport. In addition to those who praised and congratulated this, the mental patients I mentioned above immediately vomited venom under the news,” he added.
Additionally, he said “look, brother, we are Muslims, not Christians. In Christianity, the principle of ‘thou shalt turn the other cheek to anyone who slaps you’ is recommended. However, in Islam, there is ‘tit for tat’. Whatever someone did to you, you have the right to do the same to the person who did it.”
Following on from those comments, the north’s mental health initiative criticised Arikli, saying “MPs have a great impact on society with the words they say. Derogatory or discriminatory remarks towards people with mental health problems can increase stigma and lead to negative consequences, such as a reluctance to seek help.”
“Mental health stigma, the negative attitudes and stereotypes, and discrimination faced by individuals with mental health problems, is something we are committed to tackling. Therefore, it is extremely important that community leaders and officials refrain from using such language,” they added.
They said, “we request that community leaders and the public adopt a more respectful and understanding style of communication and be aware of the power of language.”
This is not the first time Arikli has created controversy on Facebook. Last year, he was labelled a sexist by some after telling someone who suggested ‘prime minister’ Unal Ustel be replaced by someone younger that “90 – 60 – 90 is my preference.”
He has also been known to create flashpoints in real life, including at a polling station during the north’s by-election in June, where he called a ballot box officer a “bastard” after the officer told his brother not to shake hands with him.