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Turkey: Union leader detained for saying 'stupid' societies eat too much bread

Cihan Kolivar made the comments during a TV news discussion about soaring bread prices in the country
Women shop for bread at a market in Ankara, 20 December 2021 (AFP)

Turkish police on Tuesday detained a union leader after he said only a "stupid" society would consume bread as its staple food.

Cihan Kolivar, chairman for the Union for Bread Producers in Turkey, had been speaking on Monday to the Haberturk news channel about the rising price of bread in the country.

“Bread is the staple food for the stupid societies," he said.

"I speak scientifically, not from memory - per capita consumption is 210 kilos; in Sweden, Norway and Japan 50 kilos. Since our society is full of bread, such rulers have been at its head for 20 years."

The host reacted strongly to the comments, while they also went viral on Turkish Twitter - some making fun of him, others partly supporting his thesis.

The ruling AK Party spokesperson Omer Celik also commented on the statement via a Twitter message. “Kolivar’s words are hate speech,” he said. “His statements on our nation and the bread are impudent.”

One source familiar with the detention told Middle East Eye that Kolivar was in police custody due to an investigation against him.

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“He is being investigated to establish whether he violated the law that bans insulting [the] Turkish nation and the state,” the person said.

Kolivar is expected to be released after providing his testimony.

In the same TV appearance he said that Turkey was among the highest wheat consumers in the world, which is supported by the available statistics.

Turkey is going through an economic crisis which critics say is due to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's unorthodox monetary policy, which relies on low interest rates and high inflation.

The price per loaf in Istanbul increased by 150 percent in a year.

Turkish annual inflation climbed to a new 24-year high of 85.51 percent in October. 

The lira's 44 percent decline last year and 29 percent this year was the main reason behind soaring inflation, in addition to surging energy prices.

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