Turkey 2014 is not Iran 1979, but Orwell’s 1984

Turkey 2014 is not Iran 1979, but Orwell’s 1984

Many see Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s desire to prohibit coed student apartments as his latest attempt at turning Turkey into an Islamist state.

I see their point. After all, since students are legally adults, it would be unfair to limit the ban just to them. I am not sure how the government would be able to pass a law to this effect, as experts have deemed it to be unconstitutional, but I am sure they will find a way. They could start by introducing the adultery act that they tried back in 2004.

Moreover, this is not the first time Erdoğan has been accused of an Islamic agenda. After the adultery law attempt, he unsuccessfully argued against abortion. More recently, he passed a new law this summer that has limited alcohol sales.

These measures have an Islamist theme, but they are all part of Erdoğan’s authoritarian desire to enforce his way of life. I believe him to be more of a garden-variety conservative than Muslim, as confirmed by his quarrels with other sects. As fellow Daily News columnist Mustafa Akyol noted in a New York Times op-ed, he sees himself as a father to his nation and thinks he knows what is best for us. 

Therefore, when I look at Erdoğan’s policies, I see George Orwell’s 1984 rather than Iran right after the Revolution. For example, only married heterosexual sex for the purpose of providing children for the Party is accepted in Orwell’s Oceania, with all other forms considered sexcrimes. Erdoğan’s desire to monitor people’s residences is the epitome of “big brother watching.” 

I see more traces of 1984 from an economic perspective. For example, you could see Erdoğan’s forays into people’s private lives as his longing to create a homogenous society where, just like in Oceania, the collective takes precedence over the individual. I recently came across interesting research that shows stifling individualism hinders innovation and growth, but that is for a future column.

As in Oceania, Turkish ministries do the opposite of what their names imply. We don’t have a Ministry of Peace that is engaged in continuous war, but we do have a Ministry of Environment (and Urban Development) that is intent on destroying the environment. That is not very surprising given that its minister previously headed TOKİ, the state-run housing development administration.

We don’t have a Ministry of Truth that is busy distorting the truth, although some of Finance Minister Mehmet “nominal” Şimşek’s tweets would certainly fit in that category. But we do have a Ministry of European Union Affairs, where the minister loves to fight with the EU. Egemen Bağış, known as #şakacıegemen (Egemen the joker) due to his witty tweets, recently stated Turkey would never join the EU, making me wonder why his ministry is still functional.

Maybe, we just need to learn to love Erdoğan. Maybe, we need a Ministry of Love that would “teach” us to love “the master,” as he is called by his supporters. We hope we can one day win, just like Orwell’s protagonist Winston, victory over ourselves.