Newly released video footage has thrown doubt on claims by a headbag-wearing mother that she was attacked by a group of protesters in Istanbul during last year’s mass antigovernment protests.
Gulf News Zehra Develioglu alleges that around 100 half-naked men with leather gloves attacked her while she was waiting with her baby for her husband near Kabatas tram station — a claim widely trumpeted by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Zehra, 25, also claims she was a victim of sexual assault and said some protesters had peed on her on January 1, at the height of the unrest.
But in the footage released by the Dogan news agency on Thursday, there is no sign of an attack while she is seen waiting with her baby and later meeting with her husband.
Dogan also said that police had examined at least 73 security cameras and questioned hundreds of people near the site of the alleged attack but found no evidence of assault on a woman that day.
At the time, Erdogan frequently repeated the claim and said: “They attacked my headscarf wearing sister in Kabatas”. But the lack of evidence, Erdogan’s failure to fulfil his promise to find the culprits and the fact that Develioglu is the daughter of a mayor from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) prompted endless speculation.
Opponents accuse Erdogan of authoritarian tendencies and of forcing Islamic conservative reforms on the mainly Muslim but staunchly secular nation.
Erdogan, whose wife also wears a headbag, provoked criticism that he was merely trying to discredit the protesters by using religious sensitivities. He also claimed that protesters — mostly young and secular — had entered an Istanbul mosque with their beer bottles and their shoes on.
But the headscarf is a particularly sensitive symbol in Turkey as it is viewed as a sign of political Islam in stark contrast to the republic’s secular traditions.
In September, the Islamist-leaning AKP lifted a decades-old ban on Muslim head bags in the civil service, seen as a gesture by Erdogan to his grassroots in the run-up to elections starting with local polls next month.