The presidency will deliver a new official car to Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) head Mehmet Görmez, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, after the former said he would return his luxurious official vehicle.
“We have decided to make a gesture, a move which suits that position, in response to impoliteness towards our directorate of religious affairs,” Erdoğan said on late May 21 in a televised interview.
Görmez, Turkey’s top cleric, has said he would return his 1 million Turkish Lira ($435,000) official car that was recently purchased, following strong criticism from opposition parties and the public. Yet, Erdoğan said he would have rejected the return of the car if had been informed beforehand.
The purchase of a Mercedes S500 sedan for the cleric, in addition to 14 Toyota cars for the Diyanet’s general directors and 16 minibuses for general use, elicited a strong reaction against the directorate.
The Diyanet announced on Dec. 13, 2014, that the purchases had been made with state funds, not with citizens’ private donations.
Earlier in December, Görmez was featured in international media when he met Pope Francis, during the latter’s historic visit to Turkey. It was reported that the Turkish authorities had refused the Pope’s request for “a humble car” in Ankara on the grounds of security. Nevertheless, in Istanbul, the pontiff surprised many onlookers when he arrived in a modest vehicle bearing a civilian license plate.