A ‘watermelon statue with a child in it,’ which was displayed in Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakır, has been the center of attention this week. From the money spent to the aesthetic preferences and unclear benefits, it deserves to be discussed in detail. The Governor of Diyarbakır, looks to be very satisfied with a job well done with regard to the statue.
He apparently finds it very cute. He answered comments saying, “this child looks a bit strange,” with “let us not discriminate against babies.” He has also said he believes that there is no negative impact.
When traveling across Turkey, it is like that you will come across similar statues – each one weirder than the last - placed at the entrances of cities. Various fruits and vegetables, pottery, carpets, musical instruments, breads, food and drinks are presented to visitors in sculptural form. These freaky figures are meant to symbolize a product or a situation that that town is famous for. However, not all statues have this clear association. The most expensive dinosaur and gorilla statues in the world were commissioned by Turkish municipalities. This pattern of construction also includes fake artifacts on world heritage lists. People have even gone so far to discuss the creation of a ‘new Bosporus.’ This mentality is based on the idea that notoriety of the previous Turkish regime was largely based on such status symbols.
Those who believe this have tried to support their argument by saying, “[The old Turkey] built monuments” and replicating them out of concrete. They do not stop and think of the side of Turkey which embraces modesty and simplicity. They see no problems when our forests start to look like quarries, when our seashores are turned into concrete pools are sewer pipes. The ugliness of these ‘monuments’ representing cultural and intellectual hegemony is no where to be seen, but their obscene size is certainly present.
As if it were not enough to destroy cities, coastlines, and forests, there are also mega projects, which are concrete symbols of the government, paid by citizens. They not only shape our physical world via the shock of seeing a new ‘statue’ appear on the road in front of us, but they have shaped our understanding of our government. The ruling parties are presenting themselves in a way that is as weird and frightening as a concrete child popping out of a watermelon. They have become an emotional burden that we are constantly reminded of and that we all must carry.
We are all paying the price of this way of thinking. At times all of us must watch in anger, unable to intervene, the construction of institutions, projects, and, yes, watermelon-child statues. This is also true of the pennies collected as earthquake or corona aid, which are then spent by the Central Bank or local government.
This corrupt mentality goes even deeper, however. Videos on social media tell us of the existence of underground criminal organizations partnered with the state. Where the 128 billion dollars went and how it got there, we may never know. Who is the main perpetrator of this so-called ‘full lockdown,’ we may never know. What we do know is such a mentality is resulting in cases of vegetables being thrown away, as well as bans on tampons, books and light bulbs. While we thought this Ramadan alcohol ban was frustrating but temporary, it is becoming clear that liquor licenses are also on the chopping block.
While the question, “Where are the vaccines?” has not been answered, we are bending over backwards for tourists. Everything the doctors, scientists, organizations, and boards are telling us not to do, we are doing. For example, drugs containing hydroxychloroquine, which Health Minister Fahrettin Koca was very proud of using during early stages of the pandemic, saying there was plenty in stock, has recently been removed from the treatment guide. Who chose this drug, who cancelled it? Who decided and what was this decision based on? What was the cost? What has changed now? The lack of clarity is astounding.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on TV, regarding a video of Istanbul Mayor Ekrem walking with his hands behind his back, “For me, it’s a crime, but I won’t allow an investigation into it.” Thus, the issue was closed. However, almost every word of his points to the lawlessness and arbitrariness in our country. He is saying that he is the one who determines what is and isn’t a crime. In our town squares, at rallies, we have seen state officials declare new crime and criminals.
When those who were publicly ‘exposed’ as criminals were acquitted, they simply said that court decisions were conspiracies, maneuvers, and coup d’états. Just like the elections, they are repeating the same court decisions over and over until they get the desired result. Just like the Gezi Park case.
That weird kid sitting inside an empty watermelon is burned into your brain once you think about all it represents. He is the embodiment of ugliness, nonsense, arbitrariness, thoughtlessness, which we are confronted with in every area of Turkish life.