‘Where did $128 billion go?’ ask Turkish lawmakers above Bosporus

Turkey’s main opposition deputies Mahmut Tanal, Sera Kadıgil and Ali Mahir Başarır on Sunday carried out a protest on Istanbul’s Bosporus Bridge, drawing attention to the country’s lost $128 billion.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmakers hung a banner from the bridge that read, “Where did $128 billion go?” in reference to the opposition campaign for accountability on the disappearing central bank reserves.

The Turkish central bank spent tens of billions of dollars out of its foreign currency reserves last year to fight a severe drop in the value of the lira. The opposition, led by CHP, has been using the slogan to call for transparency on how and where the money was spent.

“With this, we also ask where the donations to the martyrs’ families and veterans of July 15,” Tanal said in a tweet where he posted a video of the action.

The Bosporus Bridge was renamed to July 15 Martyrs Bridge after it played a prominent role in an attempted coup in 2016. Soldiers cut off traffic on the bridge during the coup attempt, and 34 people died when they opened fire on civilians who came to protest the military takeover.

CHP has been running a long campaign demanding transparency and accountability for the money the government collected via donations that were supposed to go to the families of more than 300 people who were killed and those who suffered injuries during the attempted putsch.

“The only thing that is known is that 309 million liras ($36.5 million) were collected in 2017,” CHP deputy Özgür Özel said on the 2019 anniversary of the bloody events.

The accountability campaign for the central bank reserves has been met with hostility from the government, with various officials taking down posters that refer to $128 billion in any capacity in April, when the campaign started.

Posters with only the number “128” on them were also taken down by the police and other officials.

In early May, private citizens joined CHP’s campaign to ask President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan where the money was during a live broadcast.

Erdoğan and his ruling party strongly reject that central bank reserves were squandered away at all, while the opposition has called for a full parliamentary investigation.

Another CHP deputy, Aykut Erdoğdu, has called for Erdoğan to be tried for treason, and said Turkey’s national interests had been sacrificed for the president’s “dubious wealth”.

In a livestream lawmaker Başarır posted on Twitter, the deputies are seen having a discussion with police officers after they placed the banner.

Social media users joined to support the deputies via the hashtag, “#128MilyarDolarNerede” (“Where did $128 billion go”), while Bosporus Bridge trended on Twitter.