The international left is condemning remarks by Turkish Parliamentary Speaker İsmail Kahraman, who accurately described Irish-Argentine communist Ernesto “Che” Guevara as a “killer” no one should admire.
Guevara himself confessed on multiple occasions not only to preferring to execute prisoners personally, but confessed in a letter to his father, “I really like to kill.”
The communist dictatorship in Cuba is outraged at Kahraman’s description of Guevara as a “killer,” however, as Guevara is considered a founding father of communist Cuba. Cuban diplomats are demanding an apology for insulting the mass murderer, an “icon” for the Castro regime, in the words of Ambassador Alberto Gonzales Casals.
Kahraman made his remarks during a speech to a youth group, noting that the number of young Turks wearing Guevara’s face on their shirts was distressing. “Che was a killer personality who was killed at the age of 39 and carried out executions in person,” he stated. “He was a guerilla. A bandit who was involved in activities in Bolivia, Cuba and South America cannot be on the collar and chest of my high school student youth. It should not be. He has no ties with me. He is not my roots. He is not my history.”
A Turkish government statement following outraged remarks from Cuba’s ambassador in Ankara attempted to frame the comments as nationalist, not anti-Marxist. “Thousands of heroes and leaders in our history could be taken example as role model and followed, not a personality who participated in Cuba’s socialist revolution,” the statement read.
Turkish newspaper Hurriyet notes that Casals branded the comments “unacceptable” in conversation with them and is hoping for an apology: “I want to believe [the] parliament speaker’s declaration is more linked to misunderstanding and misinformation about the history of Che Guevara.”
There is no concrete estimate of the number of people Che Guevara personally killed, but it is believed to be in the dozens by historians amassing witness testimonies. “When you saw the beaming look on Che’s face as the victims were tied to the stake and blasted apart by the firing squad,” one eyewitness, former Cuban political prisoner Roberto Martin-Perez, told author Humberto Fontova, who writes that many witnesses said Guevara was known to interrupt firing squad executions to perform the killing himself. To his deputies, he advised, “when in doubt, kill.” He wrote in his diaries that he sought to use hate to make of people “an effective, violent, selective, and cold killing machine.”
In addition to killing, Guevara wrote prolifically on black people (“indolent and lazy”), the media (“we must get rid of all newspapers”), and critical thinking (“it is criminal to think as an individual”).
Leftists across Turkey have attempted to stage protests in support of Guevara, organizing in front of the parliament building clad in, of course, Che shirts. Police prevented those in front of the parliament building from entering and confiscated their Che paraphernalia.
Kahraman’s attitude towards Guevara is a stark contrast to that of the government across the Bosporus. Greek Prime Minister Alexs Tsipras, a member of the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza), named his son “Ernesto” after the mass murderer. Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is known both for its Islamist and anti-Marxist policies. Its political platform promotes “free capital movements and free trade,” tax breaks, and a robust capitalist market. Among its greatest enemies is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Marxist terrorist group.
The AKP has nonetheless attempted to maintain warm relations with Cuba because of its Islamist mission. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been denied on multiple occasions permission to fund the construction of a mosque in Cuba, the first of its kind. Cuba has a negligible Muslim population and the Communist regime is nominally atheist, tolerating only religious leaders who are silent in the face of the nation’s litany of human rights violations.
Erdogan has been open in wanting to build a mosque in Cuba because he believes that Muslims discovered America before 1492, misinterpreting a passage in Christopher Columbus’s diaries that describes a mountainside as having the domed appearance of a mosque.