A kiss is not just a kiss in Turkey

A kiss is not just a kiss in Turkey

Anyone who has watched the classic film “Casablanca,” and only the most deprived of unfortunates must not have until now, know these lyrics by heart:

You must remember this,

A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh

The fundamental things apply

As time goes by…

Well “a kiss is not a kiss” in Turkey where “the fundamental things” most certainly do not apply. Recently, an announcement at the Ankara metro’s Kurtuluş station called on young people on the platform to “behave morally.” It appears an officious voyeur in the back office was watching young lovers kiss as they parted to go to work, to school, or whatever.

But this is Turkey where it appears increasingly that the field is being taken over by primitives. Young people are nevertheless fighting back to the best of their abilities. In this case, their “weapon of choice” was the simple, affectionate, loving kiss.

Following the announcement at the Kurtuluş station, a group of young people organized a “kiss-in” over social media and met at the station to carry out their “dreadful deed.” Little did they know that a pack of wolves was there waiting to attack.

Chanting “Even if our blood should flow, victory will be Islam’s” members of the group (one of them caught on camera brandishing a knife), attacked the protesting youth, beating them before getting away in a cab. No one was seriously hurt, but the affair posed more embarrassment for Turkey at a time when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is suspected of pushing its secret Islamist agenda.

By now, everyone has heard of the ban on red lipstick for Turkish Airlines hostesses, as well as efforts to put them in more modest garb, not that they are dressed immodestly today. And then there is the “jihad” the government has declared on alcohol, even though Turkey is not high on the list of alcohol-consuming countries.

The AKP is in the process of drafting draconian legislation that will restrict the consumption and advertising of alcohol. The government says it is merely implementing legislation to be found in Europe, but study the draft, which is being pushed with religious zeal, and it becomes apparent that the aim goes way beyond European standards.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has openly admitted that they want to see a “religious youth” emerge in Turkey. Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, for his part, declared during a speech in Manisa over the weekend that some may be likening them to Murat IV, and adding “But we are very proud with what we are doing.”

Murat IV (who ruled from 1623 to 1640) was one of the most brutal of Ottoman sultans. He banned not just alcohol, but also tobacco and coffee in the name of public order. History books have him roaming the streets of Istanbul at night in disguise to catch those defying his ban to have them executed.

But, as Bilkent University’s Halil İnalcık, the world-renowned Ottoman historian, indicates in his seminal work, “The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300-1600,” Murat IV – like many Ottoman sultans – was himself a habitual drinker, and his bans ultimately failed.

The restrictions on alcohol being drafted are also bound to fail in a modern Turkey that has always been marked by social diversity. We also know from the prohibition years in America that trying to ultimately ban alcohol, rather than educating people against the harm of excessive use, as well as enforcing public safety rules, for example in traffic, usually has the opposite effect.

Ban alcohol and people will drink in defiance. Attack people for kissing and you will force more of them to come and defend their lifestyles. Perhaps it is just as well, therefore, that this is all happening now.

It puts the AKP’s ultimate intentions – the dreaded “secret agenda” – up to scrutiny, enabling people to organize in defiance, not just of the government, but also of knife-wielding hoodlums chanting Islamic slogans and attacking young people whose only crime is to show affection for the one they love.