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.
Abdullah Çiftçi, a so-called expert — of what, we don’t know — claimed that this virus is a supranational experiment on a recent appearance on the CHP-affiliated Halk TV channel. People are being imprisoned at home and being prepared for a new digital world.
In one of the Facebook groups, frequented mostly by nationalist left-leaning users, one doctor analyzed the effect of the virus as follows:
“By spreading the pandemic panic, an atmosphere in which people will not be able to voice their democratic demands is being constructed on purpose so that people will not be able to rise up against the imperialist world order.”
The comment received many likes and thumbs up. At the other end of the spectrum, the language used when trying to understand the effects of the new virus is surprisingly similar.
Yeni Akit, a conservative newspaper, interviewed a retired colonel, Coşkun Başbuğ, who claimed that COVID-19 is a virus grown in a lab as a biological weapon. Humans cannot be infected by bats, he claims, because the Chinese have been eating bats for centuries. Başbuğ believes that imperialist powers have invented this virus in order to weaken China.
Thus, there are those who are sure that this virus is a weapon used by imperialist powers. And on the other hand, there are those who believe that Muslims can not be affected by COVID-19.
The channel Yol TV recently interviewed a young man: he believes that since Muslims wash their hands, feet and mouths five times a day, it is impossible for them to be infected by any virus. He says he does not believe people coming back from their religious pilgrimage can carry the virus because they are coming from the home of the Prophet.
Ali Rıza Demirci, a theologist who appeared on the news TV channel Habertürk, claimed that the cause of the virus is homosexuality, adultery and anal sex in marriage. He made these statements during prime time hours, right after the Health Minister’s press conference.
Although Turks tend not to believe in the authenticity or destructiveness of the virus, most praise the work of the Minister of Health. Some are suspicious about whether the Health Ministry is sharing the correct numbers with the people; they are suspicious that there might be more cases than officially declared. However, for Turks, the state is always right. People think the ministry might not be declaring the right numbers in order not to cause panic, and that is okay.