The Erdoğan Doctrine: I am conservative, so I can intervene
When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan set forth in 2001 with his buddies, founding the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), he gave significant assurances to a very wide segment of society. He had not said at that time that he regarded female and male students staying in the same accommodation as one of Turkey’s most important moral issues.
Prime Minister Erdoğan, after 11 years in power, has introduced Turkey with such an item on his agenda.
Now we have a Prime Minister Erdoğan before us who regards the co-ed accommodation of students as a moral issue that has a high priority to be tackled, who issues orders to governors to prevent this and who calls for a legal arrangement, if need be.
The first aspect of the issue is related to the principles of transparency and the predictability of democracy. In none of the AK party’s party or election platforms of, has such an issue been pronounced. Just like this one, the number of files that have not been mentioned to society before but have been brought forward afterwards has an increasing trend recently. For example, a significant portion of the regulations introduced by the 4+4+4 education model have never been among targets in any way that were pledged to society.
We see that in parallel with the increase of votes in the ballot box, the AK Party is one by one bringing forward certain targets that were waiting in the corner of his mind as an extension of Erdoğan’s conservative worldview. Each step taken in this direction makes AK Party come closer to the roots of the family tree of the National Vision Movement (Milli Görüş) it was born from.
Actually, we have experienced several examples of the launching of explorations from time to time in this direction in previous years from the Erdoğan front. For example the move to ban adultery in 2004 was withdrawn upon the strong interference of the European Union at that period saying, “If you ban adultery, then full membership negotiations will not start.”
The prime minister’s struggle against alcoholic drinks can also be regarded in this framework. It is not limited to restricting the sale of drinks; the prime minister also verbally interferes in people’s drinking by suggesting “alcohol is extracted from fruits. Eat fruit instead…”
Young people of the opposite sex’s relationships are another matter the PM is sensitive about. He has reminded people “to act morally on the metro.” He has also said, “When I go to my office at Dolmabahçe, I see the situation of those coming from Kadıköy. These are actually things that do not suit my personal values.”
He expressed his criteria as, “You can sit in the same park bench side by side, have your chat, etc.”
The practice introduced by Erdoğan is for young people to sit side by side in a park and not to go any further than that.
The main problem here is that the PM is able to regard that he has the authority to dictate everybody to his own moral extent and rules. It starts with how many children a family should have to conveying the message “do not drink, eat grapes.” It reaches out to launching a campaign to prevent university students of the opposite sex from sharing the same accommodation.
It is a patriarchal mentality in question that regards himself above society that aims to format individuals and society according to his own conservative criteria by means of taking advantage of the tools he has, that being the government.
Erdoğan’s group speech the other day is one of those striking texts where this mentality is formulated.
After mentioning the topic of opposite sex students residing in the same accommodation, he went on, “I’m sorry but, as a conservative government we have to intervene. This is not interfering with one’s lifestyle. Nobody should interpret it that way.”
The stage Erdoğan has reached can be summed up as, “I am a conservative; I intervene.”
As can be seen, the prime minister bases the legitimacy of his intervention directly to his conservative values and attributes an absolute rightfulness to these values.
When you set forth with this mentality, there is no limit to it. When the topic lands in other areas tomorrow, this mentality will always find a reason to justify itself for intervening in others.
Sedat Ergin is a columnist for the daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published on Nov. 7. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.