Sorry, but we won’t get the hell out!

Sorry, but we won’t get the hell out!

We are experiencing days when understanding “Turkish politics” does not require help from political science only, but also from the field of psychiatrics. Despite eight election victories in 12 years with, most likely, a ninth on the way, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is full of hatred, anger, nervousness, unhappiness and dissatisfaction. 

He behaves like a rich but unhappy father who has a wonderful son he adores but also another he can never teach manners, a maverick who constantly refuses to be like his devout and obedient brother. Hence the constant fighting in Mr. Erdoğan’s household and his increasing frustration about the vagabond son.

Visiting Soma after the May 13 mining disaster, Mr. Erdoğan reportedly walked into a supermarket, shouted that “If you boo the prime minister of this country you will be slapped,” and slapped a young man while calling him “an Israeli sperm.” 

The young man later said the prime minister had involuntarily slapped him but that his bodyguards injured him badly. Subsequently, he changed his account of the incident and told journalists that Mr. Erdoğan’s physical involvement was, in fact, to protect him from the bodyguards. “I don’t believe that our prime minister would have insulted me at all,” he said. I would expect the young man to apologize to the bodyguards for forcing them to beat him, but he was not kind enough.

But another young miner compensated for his lack of kindness when he said: “We love you so dearly, Prime Minister. We are in so much pain. But of course we should be slapped, prime minister.” Good boy. Of course, you should be slapped.  

In the second famous post-tragedy incident, a protester was seen pinned to the ground by two policemen while one of Mr. Erdoğan’s advisers, now dismissed, kicked him. That young man, too, finally spoke to journalists. “I apologize to our prime minister,” he said. Finally, some kind behavior from a young man who had forced Mr. Erdoğan’s policemen and adviser to give him a good beating. He also said: “I cannot go out of my house. I feel terribly embarrassed. I forgave him [the adviser who kicked him], and he, too, forgave me. I have not filed a complaint.” 

It was wonderful news that the adviser had forgiven the miner for making him kick him. Prompting an important man from the prime minister’s entourage to kick a citizen could well have earned one a lengthy time in jail. The miner was lucky. 

It’s all about putting the whole thing in plain or politically less incorrect language. In a speech, Mr. Erdoğan once mentioned his ambition to raise devout generations. In another, he told a gathering of students that “If you believe [in Islam] you are surely superior,” and in another he said, “Young men, do not forget that the light comes from the East,” before telling them that “Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Afghanistan are your brothers!” 

In a less nicely worded message, the Turkish Red Crescent’s director for Istanbul and a brother of Mr. Erdoğan’s former transport minister, Binali Yıldırım, tweeted a message after the death of a protester: “Either you will live quietly like a donkey in this country or you will get the hell out.” 

All of this is about the incompatibility between Mr. Erdoğan, his obedient, devout son and his maverick son who insists on vagabondism. In Mr. Erdoğan’s ideal world, the new Turkish generation should consist merely of young men like the apologetic miners of Soma, good boys who are grateful to their father even though they live in misery despite their father’s wealth, good boys who thank their father for a slap in the face.

Ironically, the maverick brother is mourning their misery and standing up for their rights against their father. But the good boy is happy. The father is not. He won’t have peace until the maverick boy has been educated into piety and has learnt to unconditionally respect the father. Sadly, he has grown beyond his years to “change so radically,” and Mr. Erdoğan, a smart man, no doubt, privately knows that his is losing a family war.

Sorry, dear Red Crescent official; the maverick boy has no other home to go to.