Why Erdoğan cannot make peace with (half of) Turks

Why Erdoğan cannot make peace with (half of) Turks

Too bad. Just when any Turkish government’s nemesis, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), was quietly disappearing from the battleground, after three decades and 40,000 coffins, a new security threat to Turkey is emerging: Turks - just the other, unwanted half.

On Wednesday, I wrote in this column: “You will not sit down and think about where you may have gone wrong. Instead, I bet, you will start devising plans on how to crush the next wave of protests with minimal publicity around the world. This is where you are wrong.” (The Battle of Taksim and beyond, Hürriyet Daily News, June 5, 2013).

Only hours after that line appeared on this page, the police in İzmir cracked down on more than 30 people, aged between 19 to 25, and arrested them on charges of “provoking civil unrest by means of social media messages.” Hats off to the İzmir police: They have failed to identify civilian-dressed thugs beating protesters with sticks prodded with big nails, despite crystal clear video footage, but they miraculously captured “social media provocateurs” in hours.

It is perfectly normal that Turkey has ended up with zero friends a few years after it ventured to have zero problems with its neighbors. A government at war with half of its own people was unable to achieve peace on its borders with foreign countries. The parallelism on the etiology of failure is just too visible: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ideologues have failed to make peace with the “drunken” Turks because of their (dogmatic) Islamism, and they have failed to win their hearts because of their neo-Ottoman arrogance. By a simple twist of fate, they have failed to make peace with Turkey’s neighbors because of their (sectarian) Islamism, and they have failed to win their hearts because of their neo-Ottoman arrogance.

Before flying to the Maghreb - and at the peak of protests – Mr. Erdoğan insisted: a) Only those who consume alcohol once or twice a year are not alcoholics; otherwise all drinkers are; b) Since it is “the state’s subway,” it is most normal if the state imposes its moral values on subway passengers; and c) Every religious commandment by definition is good for the people.

I do not know precisely which foreign leaders Mr. Erdoğan’s definition would tag as alcoholics, but the International Society of Alcoholic Statesmen can’t be a tiny club. We know what things, other than subways, the state also “owns,” such as roads, pavements, parks, or just everything other than our homes and cars (unless we drive them on the state’s roads). But it is ambiguous what moral values the state has. We know from very recent incidents that holding hands and kissing in “the state’s subways” are not deemed good by the state.

What other morals? Tattoos? When will you ban gays from using public transport? What should the ideal length of a morally proper skirt be? What about chewing a prosciutto sandwich on the bus? What about chewing a gum in the train during Ramadan? Telling bad jokes to friends? Too much laughter? Being happy, unlike you? We are sorry that we shall keep on laughing, and sometimes too much, while you will be wasting your lives trying in vain to impose “the state’s moral values in state’s subways and trains.” We will laugh for you too - if we have time left outside of laughing at you.

“Every religious commandment is good” is too big a shot, prime minister. Since you said “religion” and not specifically Islam, we gather you referred to commandments in all three monotheistic scriptures. To start with, when are we going to start giving 100 leashes to adulterers, Prime Minister? Can I kill someone in the name of religion? Can the murder of my son go free if I forgive him in return for a handsome cash transfer into my bank account? Should we discriminate against our daughters in favor of our sons when we write our will? When do you plan to regulate all that by law?

You have a hard life, Prime Minister. And we have too much to laugh at.