Skip to main content

Turkey: Istanbul mayor Imamoglu calls Hamas a terror group

Opposition CHP politician said 7 October attack on Israel was a terrorist act but that he does not approve of the oppression of Palestinians
Ekrem Imamoglu addresses crowds after declaring victory after the 31 March 2024 local elections in Istanbul (AFP/Ozan Kose)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu told CNN on Sunday that the Palestinian group Hamas should be considered a terrorist group due to its attacks on Israel on 7 October.

The comments by the prominent Turkish opposition politician represent a sharp contrast with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's position, which has tolerated the presence of Hamas officials on Turkish territory and likened their fight to Turkey's own historic struggle for independence.

"Of course, Hamas carried out an attack in Israel that we deeply regret," Imamoglu said, adding: "In our eyes, any organisation that carries out these terrorist acts and kills people en masse is a terrorist organisation."

Imamoglu, a member of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), won a landslide victory in local elections on 31 March, leading to his re-election as mayor of Turkey's biggest city. He defeated his ruling AK Party rival, former minister of urbanisation, Murat Kurum, by nearly 12 points.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


The surprise attack by Hamas on Israel in October killed 1,140 people, including around 7oo Israeli civilians and dozens of foreigners.

Approximately 240 people were taken captive to Gaza, and around half of them have since been released in a prisoner exchange deal.

After the attacks in October, relentless Israeli bombardment on the besieged Gaza Strip has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, the majority of whom are women and children.

Reports suggest that at least 50 hostages have also been killed during Israel's offensive. Currently, 133 captives remain unaccounted for in the Gaza Strip.

'Cruelty against Palestinians'

Imamoglu added that while he perceives Hamas as a terrorist group, he does not approve of the oppression of Palestinian people.

"In general, the West does not see the big picture on this issue; it only looks at this issue from the perspective of one side or the other," he said.

War on Gaza: Hamas chief meets Turkey's Erdogan in Istanbul
Read More »

"We interpret the Hamas attack as a terrorist attack, but we also stand against the cruelty suffered by Palestinian women and children who are being killed there today."

Imamoglu's statement contradicts President Erdogan's recent declaration, which equated Hamas with Turkish revolutionary forces that helped Mustafa Kemal Ataturk defeat invading allied troops in the early 1920s.

Erdogan's comments were criticised by CHP officials. Imamoglu is widely seen as the party's presidential candidate for the 2028 elections, possibly running against Erdogan himself.

Since the local elections, Erdogan has toughened his rhetoric against Israel. He also met with Hamas leaders in Istanbul in a highly publicised manner and has imposed sanctions on trade with Israel, restricting the export of more than 50 products to the state.

Ruling party officials, as well as Erdogan, believe that the government's Palestine policy, specifically continued trade with Israel, angered many pious Turkish Muslims, who switched their votes to rival conservative parties during local elections last month.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.