Just as the legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the secular Turkish state, is slowly being eroded by the current Islamist government in Ankara, his memory suffered another blow when Turkish officials seized his former yacht as part of a human trafficking sting on Sept. 28.
The state-run Anatolian news agency reported the MV Savarona had been leased to a Kazakh businessman, who used the state-owned luxury vessel to throw sex parties. Two underage girls and eight women, all said to be prostitutes, were removed after authorities in the city of Antalya confiscated the yacht. The sex ring had been under observation by police for seven months, and reportedly charged between $3,000 and $10,000 for a night with the prostitutes. Eight people were arrested for human trafficking and detaining the women, who were said to have originated from Russia and Ukraine.
The Turkish government bought the yacht in 1938, and Atatürk spent a few weeks aboard the Savarona before dying later that year. He remains highly exalted among many Turks because of the economic, social and cultural reforms he introduced to transform the former Ottoman Empire. Insults to his memory can be punished with a jail sentence.