Turkey Opens ‘Fidel Castro Park’ in Capital

Cubans pay their respects to late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro during a ceremony in Santiago, on December 3, 2016
AFP Juan Barreto

The government of Ankara, the capital of Turkey, inaugurated a park honoring late dictator and mass murderer Fidel Castro on August 13, the occasion of what would have been his 91st birthday.

Fidel Castro, a communist insurgent who took over Cuba in 1959 and is estimated to have killed thousands and forced tens of thousands more into labor camps in his lifetime, died last November, triggering widespread celebrations among the Cuban exile community.

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reports that Ankara’s Çankaya Municipality chose to open the park, which features a playground for young children and a sports field, in name of the Cuban dictator and serial human rights abuser to extend “its friendship hand to Cuba.” Cuban ambassador Alberto González Casals was on hand to witness the grand opening of the park this week.

“The name of Fidel Castro, a revolutionary leader who has won the hearts of many people across the globe as well as the Cuban people, endeavoring to fight 90 years of his life against imperialism, will live in Çankaya,” local officials said in a statement. “Castro, who has left a great trail with his thoughts and struggle, will be reminded to the new generation from Çankaya.”

The statement does not mention the great trail of bodies Castro has left behind—low estimates suggest over 10,000 killed, not counting those who died trying to flee the island on makeshift rafts.

Çankaya has been an official sister city of Havana since 2003, 44 years into Castro’s communist tyranny.

Turkey has long proven a friendly nation to the Castro family. In 2015, Castro’s son, Antonio, triggered an uproar among the Cuban exile community after reporters caught him lounging on a luxury yacht on the Turkish coast. Latest estimates suggest the Castro family is sitting on a $900 million fortune. The Turkish left has also long embraced him, as a Hurriyet column from November notes, highlighting loving eulogies to Castro from leftist publications shortly after his death.

“The same Turkish leftists who have only admiration for Castro have only contempt for Turkey’s powerful president, Tayyip Erdoğan,” columnist Mustafa Akyol wrote at the time. “They criticize Erdoğan almost every day for curbing free speech and crushing the opposition—and often rightly so, I must say. However, they seem to disregard the fact that Castro did the exact same things in Cuba—only more bluntly, only more brutally, only for a much longer period of time.”

While President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be a target for those who love Castro, his government has strived to maintain ties with the regime. Erdogan, who frequently rails against leftists in his home country, visited Cuba and met with high-ranking officials to discuss bilateral agreements. Erdogan repeatedly lobbied for the atheist communist government to allow Turkey to build a mosque in the country, modeled after a mosque in Istanbul, despite the nearly non-existent Muslims presence in Cuba. Erdogan has repeatedly asserted that he believes Muslim explorers reached the island of Cuba before Christopher Columbus; he bases this belief on Columbus’s comparison to the hills of Cuba to the architecture of mosques at a time, despite the fact that Columbus makes clear he is describing a natural formation.

Cuba’s government, a serial religious freedom violator, denied Erdogan’s appeal to build the mosque.

Fidel Castro’s regime has been responsible for the death, torture, and enslavement of tens of thousands of Cubans, specifically targeting gay and religious Cubans, who were seen as “counter-revolutionary” and thus worthy of elimination. Many of these were forced into labor camps known as the UMAP (“Military Units to Aid Production”), a favorite torture center for LGBT Cubans, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Studies on the UMAP found that an estimated 30,000 Cubans were forced to toil in the UMAP while the system was active.

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