Turkish energy minister ridiculed over desire to become a martyr

Energy Minister Taner Yildiz (above right) prompted astonishment and mockery on social media.
Energy Minister Taner Yildiz (above right) prompted astonishment and mockery on social media.YOUTUBE

ANKARA (AFP) - A senior Turkish Cabinet minister declared Wednesday he wished to become a "martyr" as the government fights an unprecedented offensive against Kurdish rebels, prompting astonishment and mockery on social media.

"My goal is to be martyred, if Allah desires, for my religion, my nation and my country," Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters at a conference in Ankara.

Turkey is currently waging an "anti-terror war" against Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, who have hit back by killing members of the security forces on a daily basis.

Each of the slain troops is buried with full honours and described as a "martyr" ("sehit" in Turkish) for the fatherland.

Like all prominent members of the Islamic-rooted ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Yildiz is a pious Muslim.

But his comments - which he later rushed to define as theoretical - were roundly ridiculed on social media.

"Taner Yildiz went home with his million-dollar armoured car escorted by 750 bodyguards after saying he hoped to become a martyr," said Twitter user Cuma Cihan.

"Irony!" "Taner Yildiz would like to become a martyr!" said the opposition Sozcu daily.

"What is stopping you? We have had enough of these lies," tweeted journalist Rustem Batum.

With soldiers' funerals broadcast live almost every day, use of the word "martyr" has already stirred up some controversy.

Any hint of a cult of Islamic martyrdom emerging in Turkey is hugely contentious, with critics accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of eroding the state's secular foundations.

At the weekend, Erdogan outraged opponents over remarks at a funeral in which he said "how happy is his family" that the young soldier had become a "martyr".

And last month, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said the Turkish people were ready to "sacrifice our sons" for the sake of the campaign.

There has also been considerable debate on social media that many of the victims were from the poorest sections of Turkish society who were unable to avoid compulsory military service.

Yildiz himself denied rumours his own sons had paid a fee to avoid military service.