“They are drinking until they sneeze. We don’t say anything,” was how Erdoğan, back in 2011 as then the prime minister, explained his conservative establishment’s supposed tolerance towards a secular lifestyle. In the same speech, he mentioned that the AKP was a conservative party, but at the same time a democratic one. Erdoğan claimed his party was bound by international principles of freedom. Those were the years when Erdoğan still claimed to be a democrat.
Quickly following this statement of professed tolerance, the mainstream narrative shifted, and was based around Erdogan’s promise of raising a “religious and revengeful new generation.” Fast forward to December 2019, and Erdogan’s core message is that Islam is not “a religion for certain weeks, certain places, but is at the very center of life.” He declared: “We will live in accordance with the rules and principles of Islam.”
Led by Erdoğan, the AKP has been reshaping the secular life of Turks for the last 17 years, bit by bit. The education system has been Islamised, and for symbolic purposes, an additional salaah for Thursday evening has been introduced in which imams all over Turkey sign loudly to remind people of the upcoming Muslim holy day, Friday. The government made sure prayer rooms have been installed in offices, schools, airports, and pretty much everywhere they could fit. The budget of the religious affairs division has been rising. The head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs is being driven around in a stylish Mercedes Benz.
It has been harder for restaurants to obtain the necessary licenses to sell alcohol. In Ankara, restaurants that sell alcohol were forced to hire extra security personnel and buy metal detectors. The restaurants in Istanbul’s famous Taksim area were forced to move their tables that used to sit on the street inside, which killed a lot of their business.
The Turkish tourism hub preferred by German tourists, Antalya, had been organizing Oktoberfest for years before the AKP won the local elections there back in 2014. One of the first measures of the AKP mayor was to abolish the “beer drinking” festival.
The latest in the line of religiously-inspired incidents happened in Adana, a southern Turkish city with a unique character whose people are proud of their city, their type of kabab and their Adana ways.
The people of Adana organize an annual Rakı fest on the second week of December each year, with residents gathering in restaurants around the big clock of Adana, drinking rakı and eating kebab. People in Adana recall this festival as a very old one, where even their great-grandparents used to gather around the clock, drink rakı and enjoy themselves.
In 2016, the festival was banned by the governorate for alleged security reasons. Then the name of the festival was changed to Kebab and Turnip Juice Fest, so that the emphasis would be moved away from the alcoholic rakı. Although rakı was not mentioned in the name of the festival, traditional rakı drinking remained. This year, the governorate of Adana was decisive in preventing the festival altogether. The festival did not have an official organization as it was organized through social networks, and through an agreement between the restaurants and the people.
On December 14, when the festival was to take place, the police started to fill the streets of central Adana, where most restaurants are located. Police ordered the restaurants to move their tables from their patios, and the restaurants’ speakers were removed to prevent music.
Emre, a young participant in the festival, told me he and his friends first went to Cigerci Mehmet Usta, next to the famous clock tower, and found the famous restaurant to be closed. They asked for the reason and were told that the police informed the owners that keeping the restaurant open carried a risk of being fined 60,000 lira for serving rakı. Emre said all the restaurants were warned that letting their customers drink rakı outside of the restaurant’s interior perimeter was strictly forbidden.
An opera singer, Güvenç Dağüstün, was in Adana for the festival too. He told me he was with a group in a restaurant where the music was stopped and the speakers were collected by the police. Dağüstün then started singing himself to bring joy to his table and to the restaurant. Five policemen showed up and warned him not to sing. People resisted. After a while, the police had to leave and people sang the whole night long.
In Parliament, the opposition used the opportunity to directly ask the Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu about the measures taken against the festival in the parliament. Soylu briefly answered that the festival was “not in line with Turkish traditions and customs.”
Residents of Adana are now jokingly saying they will try to have the same festival next year with a new name. They will call it the Bici Festival, in honor of a traditional sorbet from Adana, and try their luck with the value system of New Turkey.
Nobody in their right mind can think that being an opposition party in an autocratic environment is easy. However, one cannot learn how to swim without jumping in the water. Ali Babacan's party DEVA seems to be enjoying the dry land, not taking any risks, at a time when citizens are expecting brave and wise leadership.
At a time when Turkey, just like the rest of the world, is under grave threat from a new, unknown virus, and the state has to indirectly admit that it could soon be unable to pay for the basic needs, it is becoming obvious how costly President Erdoğan's populist megalomania projects are.
The health minister announcing the new numbers every night is creating an illusion of transparency. However, Turkish people are mostly being left in the dark. Little is being shared about the scope of the spread. Meanwhile it seems that President Erdoğan and his son-in-law and the Minister of the Economy see the coronavirus as an opportunity.
Turks on both the left and right of the spectrum have been united by conspiracy theories about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. After the virus appeared, discourse about the U.S. trying to prevent the development of mighty China spread all over social media. Nationalist, leftist figures writing and speaking about the virus preferred to accuse the West when it came to the outbreak.
It is a fact that the ruling government has an obsession about Taksim square. The square is not only closed to women rallies, but pretty much any rally and gathering. There are though exceptions. One exception had been a group of Syrians celebrating new years with Free Syrian Army flags.
The refugees are not being told the truth by the authorities, Turkish public is not being told the truth either. Everybody is being kept in darkness that leads the way to more resentment and hatred.
Football in Turkey, as in many European countries, is structured around masculinity. Game days are the days when men can act like savages, insult men and women freely, and attack anyone they like — and they don’t face any consequences.
Turkey is still divided by the Gezi protests. Some see the protests as a struggle for freedom that had never happened before in Turkey and remember it with pride, while others detest the memory of the protests. For Erdoğan’s 50 percent, when the state tells you not to do something, you ought not to do it.
In a meeting between Mr Erdoğan and his party’s MPs, some MPs voiced their concerns about Turkish soap operas that they found to be not suitable for Turkish values and culture. According to the reports, Mr. Erdoğan agreed with the MPs and told them he was disturbed as well. When the President voices a concern about a matter, a new decree or law usually follows.
The chaos that occurred after the June 2015 election worked for Erdoğan, but his approval ratings tend to fall when terror attacks or wars halt and people start worrying about the economy. According to Metropoll, the last time Erdoğan’s approval rating was higher than 50 percent was 2018; the economy seems to be taking its toll on Erdoğan.
Up until now, the local businessmen used to support AKP without reservation, and it used to be a win-win situation for both parties. However, this cooperation seems to be fading. When Suriçi Group Platform hosts CHP chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, it is a significant development for Turkish politics.
There is the talk of early elections, both on the street and in back rooms. There is an expectation that some change will occur. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has a more critical part to play in Turkish politics. However, it seems that it won’t be easy for the HDP to keep their traditional voter base satisfied while becoming a more relevant actor in the upcoming political period.
While many of the pro-government figures in Turkey were preaching about what sort of a villain Soleimani was, the Turkish secular left was busy describing him as the “Che Guevara of the Middle East.” Though it depends on how one perceives Che Guevara, the comparison was supposed to be a compliment to Soleimani’s legacy.
Totalitarian systems usually come up with their own ideal man. Tayyip Erdoğan believes the future of his Turkey lies in İmam Hatip school education. He believes the only way to create his “ideal man” is to educate young Turkish people in line with the strict religious education of the imam hatip schools. As Erdoğan became stronger, so did the imam hatip schools.
President Erdoğan’s military advisor and the founder of the armed group SADAT, recently suggested that Islamic unity will be possible when Mahdi comes. Erdoğan’s military advisor announcing his mission to prepare for Mahdi’s arrival is definitely not a good sign for Turkey’s near future.
Horses tumbling down and breathing their last breaths, while still being harnessed to the carriage has also turned into an everyday scene at the Princes’ Islands of Istanbul. Weak, limping horses trying to pull crowded families up the hills, often looks like a horror scene from a dystopian movie.
Last Sunday, women gathered in one of the Istanbul’s busy centers, Kadıköy. Their aim was to protest violence against women and the inaction of the state. However, as usual in recent years in Turkey, the police jumped in and dispersed the crowd, detaining some of the women protesters.
Turkey is now being ruled by an exceptional version of a presidential system. Everything is ultimately decided by the President, with ministries and the legislative branch having a marginal influence. But he also wants citizens to be able to reach the Palace directly. And CIMER is the answer!
Imamoğlu ran his election campaign not on a narrative of fighting, but a narrative of peace. He promised to be inclusive, and he was careful not to target Erdoğan in his speeches. He aimed to grab AKP votes by not targeting Erdoğan. However, now it seems that he is shifting gears.
Gas prices have doubled overnight in Iran. Since Nov. 15, street protests and riots have been spreading. The protests started peacefully, but turned violent fairly quickly. The security forces were relentless: they had no intention of tolerating this public objection to the price increase.
One of the heaviest financial crises in Turkey’s history was in 2001. It first became public symbolically when a salesman threw a cash till at then-Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit. The man threw the giant cash box in front of the cameras as Ecevit was walking into his office. As the till hit the floor and shattered into pieces, the salesman yelled, “We are struggling!” The incident symbolically marked the beginning of the end of the Ecevit era.
The Sevres Syndrome has been a factor that impedes rationality for many Turkish citizens trying to make some sense of global dynamics. In recent years, Turkish-American relations have deteriorated at an unprecedented rate. For many Turks, this was simply another example of hatred against the Turks, this time coming from across the ocean. However, even in the more rational circles in Turkey, it is almost impossible to hear critical analysis concerning Turkey’s responsibility in the failing relationship.
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Turks established the Turkish Republic. However, even the issue of what to celebrate proves that Turks have a long road ahead before they feel like a truly united nation that shares similar ideals and prospects for future.
According to Turkish civil law, the party who has the economic advantage in the marriage is to pay for children’s expenses and some expenses of the former spouse. In most cases the economic advantage is with the men, since on the one hand many men do not want their wives to work during the marriage and also social inequalities cause men to be the breadwinners of the families, not the women.