Turkish official makes headlines by donning cap at Yad Vashem

Erdogan stirred a storm by refusing to cover his head during a ceremony at Yad Vashem.

erdogan 298.88  (photo credit: AP [file])
erdogan 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel may have long forgotten that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointedly refused to wear a head covering when he visited Yad Vashem last year, but apparently the Turks haven't forgotten - especially those out to embarrass Erdogan. The mass circulation Turkish daily Hurriyet featured a front-page picture in its Saturday edition of Turkish Culture and Tourism Minister Atilla Koc at Yad Vashem last week with his head covered by a cap. The paper ran an article inside under the headline, "He overcomes kippa issue with a marine cap." The paper ran an underline that read: "Erdogan entered bareheaded." On his first visit to Israel last May, Erdogan stirred a mini-diplomatic storm by refusing to cover his head during a memorial ceremony at Yad Vashem, something that Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul also did when he visited the site last January. At the time, Israeli officials protested that it showed a lack of respect for Israeli sensitivities, while Turkish officials countered that Erdogan - a devout Moslem - did not want to cover his head for religious reasons, and also because he didn't want pictures of him wearing a kippa splashed across the Turkish newspapers. Erdogan rebuffed efforts before his visit to get him to don a hat instead of a kippa. Hurriyet reported that Koc entered Yad Vashem wearing an "admiral's cap" worn aboard the Turkish frigate Kemal Reis. The paper wrote that the hat had a "special meaning" in Israeli-Turkish relations, since Kemal Reis was the Ottoman pasha who was sent by the Ottomans to Cadiz to bring remnants of Spanish Jewry to Turkey in 1492. Israeli diplomatic officials said the fact that a "marginal" issue of Koc's donning the hat made it to the front page of one of Turkey's most widely circulated papers testified to a growing trend in the Turkish media to criticize Erdogan wherever and whenever possible. One official said the publication of the picture and the article came against the background of some discomfiture in Turkey over the violent reaction in the Moslem world to a Danish newspaper's cartoon of Muhammad, and a feeling at least in certain circles in Turkey that if the Moslems wanted what was sacred to them to be treated with respect, they should also show sensitivity to others. Diplomatic officials said the decision to don the cap was Koc's, and the hat was provided to him by Turkish Embassy staff members who accompanied him on the visit.