A farmer who was publicly scolded by then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Erdoğan in the southern province of Mersin because he complained about the government’s agricultural policies has said he is put under close police scrutiny whenever Erdoğan comes to his city, the Sözcü daily reported on Wednesday.
The farmer, Kemal Öncel, came to public attention in February 2006 when he approached Erdoğan, who was visiting Mersin, and asked him: “What will become of the situation of the farmers? Our mothers are crying [a phrase used in Turkish to say one is suffering from something].”
In response, Erdoğan, who apparently became angry, told the farmer to “take your mother and leave,” claiming that his government had done much to improve the situation of farmers.
Öncel told the daily that whenever Erdoğan comes to Mersin, life becomes a nightmare for him, which was also the case last Sunday because Erdoğan held an election rally in Mersin for local elections slated for March 31.
“Whenever Erdoğan comes to Mersin, life becomes intolerable for me. I am either detained or put under police scrutiny,” Öncel said.
The farmer said he has been telling security authorities for years that he is not a protestor or a potential criminal and does not have a personal issue with Erdoğan; yet, he has been kept under police surveillance for years whenever Erdoğan comes to Mersin.
Öncel said he left his house in Mersin with his wife on Sunday morning to go to the highlands but received a phone call from the police, who said to him: “’Where are you, Mr. Öncel? We will be with you today. We have been instructed to do so.’ … They asked me where I would go and what I would do.”
He said he is deeply saddened by the treatment from the police he has been receiving for years.
“I have been left without peace for years, I suffered so much. What else do they want to do? That incident happened on that day, and that is it for me. I don’t know what they are trying to achieve by keeping watch over me,” said Öncel.