If you are living in Istanbul, Ankara, or in any big cities in Turkey, look around very carefully this morning. Cities are all “evacuated.” Well no, at least the government says the country is under an economic-financial war declared on itself by the United States, but the situation you will observe is a phenomenon, which is repeated once or twice every year, depending on climatic and calendar issues.
The four-day Muslim sacrifice holiday Eid al-Adha starts Tuesday morning on Aug. 21 and continues right to the end of the week. Though the government has been complaining of an economic-financial offensive on the country, it declared Monday, Aug. 20, as an “administrative holiday” for public employees. Two weekends make it an additional four days. Thus, starting from Friday evening, Turks were on the roads.
Some have gone to their summer houses and villages, but most have filled the luxurious holiday resorts, which have happily announced full occupancy.
Right or not, leaving the city and getting out of contact with relatives has become a modern habit during religious holidays aimed at consolidating family bonds and solidarity, not only in small immediate families, but in big Muslim families. In my childhood, it was a tradition to walk to the mosque on the morning of Bayram with clean shoes—even if they were old—often in winter, dancing from one stone to the other to escape mud in the road.
After the Bayram prayers, people celebrated Bayram together in the garden of the mosque. Sacrificing animals has been a tradition I never liked but that was part of the ritual as well. Before noon, families gathered at the most senior relative’s house for a Bayram lunch prepared by the women of the family. Kids were given Bayram money—some pocket money to buy candies, nuts and so on..
On our street of apartments with so many flats, there is complete silence. The city is empty. Turkey is battling one of its worst foreign exchange crises. It ought to be something worth congratulating if a government in effect manages to devaluate its currency by almost 40 percent and is still applauded by a huge majority, if not most, of the people in the country.
Seeing the incredible success of the government in portraying all economic failures as evidence of outstanding performance against an economic-financial offensive by the United States against itself, the forefathers of political propaganda and public diplomacy would have learned a lot.
Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels believed if an item of propaganda was repeated sufficient times, people would consider it a fact. As if someone else has been in government all along for the past 16 years, the government of the sole powerful executive of the country has been expressing wishes rather than concrete plans of actions to be taken to battle the awful situation the economy has landed in.
It is impossible to understand. Indeed, it is difficult to understand people burning dollar banknotes. Could such actions hurt Americans? I remember people protesting Italians by cutting their silk ties or the French by burning their Renault cars. Who is punished with such oddities? What is worse is some politicians are engaged in such nonsense.
Yet, if people can celebrate a religious holiday on beaches and at holiday resorts despite the almost 40 percent de facto devaluation of the Turkish Lira and worries expressed by leading economists that the country might be sliding into a stagflation, perhaps economists should study the “Turkish example” better.