Tunç Soyer, the mayor of the western province of İzmir, has sparked a furor from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) after saying the city once had a flag and he had an idea of a “city currency” in a video conference with tourism professionals and academics.
Soyer, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told participants of the video conference that an academic found that İzmir once had a flag with green and white stripes in the early 1800’s.
“Very few cities had flags at that time, and İzmir was one of them,” he said.
The mayor said this finding had prompted him to think of the creation of a “currency” for İzmir.
“We were excited to hear that. We will also publish this academic article. Why did I say this? Because I had an idea of a ‘coin of İzmir.’ I even named it ‘İZCOIN.’ But my friends warned me that some would think that we are in efforts to create a state,” added Soyer.
The AKP accused him of implying the creation of a “new state.”
“Talking about flag and money is talking about a new state. An elected person’s voicing this should be questioned,” said deputy chair Hamza Dağ.
“The mayor is dragging İzmir, one of the symbols of this nation’s freedom, into harmful agendas. İzmir needs palpable municipal services, not toxic agendas,” AKP spokesperson Ömer Çelik said in a Twitter post.
“İzmir is a millennium-old Turkish province,” said Veysel Şahin, the MHP’s İzmir provincial branch chair.
Soyer, however, later said, “The capital of our country is Ankara, our currency is the lira and our flag with the star and crescent is the symbol of our liberty.”
He said the “flag of İzmir” was not a matter on the municipality’s agenda, but was discussed in an academic article in a history magazine, and “the currency of İzmir” was just an idea for e-shopping in the province.
He stressed a digital shopping system run by the metropolitan municipality has been in service since February and was legal.