‘There is a thief!’

‘There is a thief!’

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his men believe that a good two-thirds of the country he rules consists of traitors and spies; and that all communists and atheists are terrorists. That’s fine.
Meanwhile, the list of usual suspects who try to topple his government by means of a coup is getting bigger and richer in humor every day. The most updated one includes intergalactic conspirators, dark forces, most of the western hemisphere’s prominent news outlets, the Jewish diaspora, Germany’s national carrier, Germany, the U.S. ambassador to Ankara, the United States, the interest rate lobby, financiers, traders, and, most recently, the robotic lobby and the preacher lobby (the Gülen movement, or the “parallel” state/structure).

Others may be coming soon, as daily leaks reveal how this column has obstinately claimed Turkey was being and would be ruled by display Muslims. At this pace of growth of a national library-size “all-kinds-of-mal-governance,” Mr. Erdoğan’s government could be compelled to launch the world’s first Ministry of Denials.

The prime minister is probably the most beloved and most hated man at the same time, in the same country – a perfect recipe to make a country unmanageable, a fact that will persistently remain in place whether Mr. Erdoğan’s party wins 35 percent, or 50 percent on March 30. This is the first government in Turkey’s modern political history that has lost its ability to govern despite an impressive popularity – all because of years of polarization. Sadly, Mr. Erdoğan is no longer fit to rule Turkey.

Suppose you are walking on a crowded street, and somebody shouts, “Rapist!” Would you get offended and start shouting back, “No, I am not a rapist!” – unless, of course, you are. Or would you grab the man and start kicking him just because he shouted “Rapist!”? This is precisely what Mr. Erdoğan and his men are programmed to do, if the man shouted “Thief!” instead of “Rapist!”

A whole police unit scanned shots taken by photojournalists at a football game last weekend to find the fans who had unfurled a banner that read “There is a thief!” More recently, a man unfurled the same banner, “Thief!” during one of Mr. Erdoğan’s rallies. Video footage shows the man was forced by security to lower the banner before being beaten by the crowd. He claims he was beaten with batons by Mr. Erdoğan’s bodyguards for an hour and threatened with a gun. His wounds – miraculously – were verified by hospital reports. Pictures he shared with Doğan News Agency showed serious bruises to his thighs and arms.

Why, really, does Mr. Erdoğan, or anyone in his circle of power, behave so prickly when someone mentions the word “thief?” What made the pro-Erdoğan crowd at the rally or his bodyguards presume the “thief” banner targeted the prime minister, and not, say, Vladimir Putin? Or the opposition leader? Why is the Justice and Development Party so convinced every mention of the word “thief” targets the prime minister? Is the prime minister the only person in the world who could be accused of being a “thief?” Is that not unfair to Mr. Erdoğan? Should the word “thief” be deleted from the Turkish vocabulary? Just in case… And why do other politicians not get offended when football fans unfurl a banner that reads “thief?” Guilt complex?

Apparently, Mr. Erdoğan’s orders to more than 100 Turkish ambassadors, “to go and say in their respective countries all of the graft allegations against him are merely a coup attempt orchestrated by the ‘parallel state’” have not worked well.

A European Parliament (EP) committee has approved a report on Turkey that powerfully criticizes the government’s handling of corruption investigations, despite a last-minute letter from Ankara claiming a set of controversial measures taken in the wake of the probe were designed to fight a “parallel structure” within the state. More or less in the same hours, the European Commission confirmed it launched an audit of the Center for European Union Education and Youth Programs in Turkey over claims that Turkey’s Education Ministry was involved in the illegal use of EU funds.

Thieves in Ankara? That’s unheard of.