Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s hatred for Turkey’s progressive and educated youth took a quantum leap forward after the Gezi protests. He is now taking this hatred a step further by means of calumny designed to sully the reputation of this youth by insinuating that they are involved in sexual deviancy and immorality.
This is the only interpretation one can give to his declarations about young male and female students living together in flats or dorms, as I and most of my friends did during our university days. Erdoğan says no one knows what goes on in these flats and dorms, and therefore it is incumbent on the state to act.
He is even saying he will instruct provincial governors and officials to act on this. Not surprisingly, many students and their parents are now worried about police raids on student lodgings in the name of morality.
Claiming, incredibly, that he is not interfering in lifestyles, Erdoğan argues that he is doing all of this for the sake of concerned parents after authorities received countless complaints. Erdoğan also said they are a conservative party and need to act in this way.
Many say he is merely engaged in politics, trying to curry favor with educationally deficient and socially underdeveloped elements of society. But he seems to have even angered some people in his own camp. One such person is Nazlı Ilıcak, a prominent conservative columnist and former deputy from the Islamist Virtue Party (Fazilet Partisi).
Talking on CNNTürk on Tuesday night, Ilıcak said that if Erdoğan was doing all of this for the sake of political gain, she was ashamed about this. Ilıcak added that she did not think this would bring any votes to Erdoğan and argued that all it would do is damage his international reputation further.
Erdoğan has, of course, said in the past that he wants to see a religious youth emerge in Turkey. He showed sympathy for a young supporter of the Islamic Brotherhood killed by the Egyptian police but none for protesting Turkish students killed or maimed by the Turkish police.
One also recalls his desperate need during the Gezi Park protests to prove that youth taking refuge in a famous mosque in Istanbul to avoid police violence acted immorally and consumed beer while there. That was rabble-rousing at its worst, trying to play on the sensitivities of religious citizens.
When the imam of the mosque denied the claim, he was driven from his post to a lesser one in Anatolia, giving us a fine example of Erdoğan’s real understanding of fairness and justice. In similar fashion, when young protesters took refuge from police brutality in the Divan Hotel in Istanbul, he declared war on the Koç family – Turkey’s richest – who own the hotel.
The AKP mentality has in fact been revealing itself more than ever over these past months. According to this mentality, young people – including married couples – cannot kiss in public and pregnant women should stay off the streets. But Erdoğan’s conservative wishes based on Islamic morality for Turkey’s progressive youth will fail.
Young people who are eligible to vote and be conscripted into the military, in other words who are legally mature to be the masters of their lives, are more than alert and aware today and will not permit such interference. If anything, Erdoğan’s remarks about cohabitation will have re-energized them.
And Ilıcak is correct in saying that Erdoğan’s international reputation will be further damaged. Erdoğan does not care about that, of course. But much worse than that, he does not care about real acts of immorality and inhumanity that are practiced and condoned by conservative and religious quarters.
The most abhorrent of these is child brides, a common practice for Anatolia’s ignorant masses. The marrying off of children by their ignorant parents is OK for Erdoğan, but young females sharing flats with male friends, which is normal in any civilized country, is not.
We should all be ashamed together with Ilıcak that Turkey has come to this.