Turkish First Lady’s Hermes bag and a pair of jeans

It is no secret that Emine Erdoğan cherishes high end products, but to mention how much they cost or be critical of her taste is a no-no.  

This has been the case for more than a decade, even before the Erdoğan family moved into the Palace. Back then, top management in mainstream papers strongly advised not to touch upon the subject of Erdoğan family’s private affairs and not to speculate on their fortune. Doing so would surely lead to a phone call from Ankara.

But things got more serious after the 17-25 December 2013 cable incident, when the then Prime Minister Erdoğan’s business and media dealings were divulged through phone recordings. After the coup attempt of July 2016, anyone who would dare discuss the finances of the Erdoğan family would be accused of plotting with the Gülenist movement. The law on “Insulting the President” was also used as a tool to silence critics and mockers. 

There is no law protecting the First Lady’s wardrobe as of yet. Still, there are judges that can be controlled on that matter. On June 24, Evrensel columnist Ender İmrek stood trial on the grounds of “insulting without giving good enough credit”.

Mr. İmrek wrote about Mrs. Erdoğan’s appearance at the G-20 summit in 2009. She attended the summit with a Hermes bag worth 50,000 dollars in 2019. What is more, he compared her to the major opposition female figure, Istanbul CHP provincial head Canan Kaftancıoğlu who was tried during that same time: “These are two pictures of Turkey… Emine Hanım who makes headlines with her luxury bag and vanity, and Kaftancıoğlu who is accused on ridiculous charges, wearing jeans to Court. Mrs. Erdoğan presented Turkey with her bag, Mrs. Kaftancıoğlu with her dignity and case.”

This article was published just after the CHP won the local elections in Istanbul for the second time in a row. 

İmrek defended himself by saying “In a country where millions of people are jobless and poor, a bag of 50,000 dollars is of course a subject of critic for a journalist.” The trial was adjourned to October.

Meanwhile, another court banned a popular social website’s comments under the headlines “Emine Erdoğan’s bag” and “To tell something the way you would tell Bilal Erdoğan.”

As for Kaftancıoğlu, the multiple charges based on her Tweets including “defamation against the President, defamation against a public officer in relation to his office, openly insulting the Republic of Turkey, openly inciting hate and hostility and spreading terror propaganda” were accepted.  

The Court of Appeal approved the 9 year 8 months prison term on June 23. Even the date was no accident. It coincides with the great electoral victory of CHP’s Ekrem Imamoğlu in Istanbul, in which Kaftancıoğlu played a great role. As a result, Kaftancıoğlu increasingly became a target for AKP trolls and mainstream media. The case against her was filed consequently. 

While her case is to be transferred to the Supreme Court, critics fear that this might set another critical stage in the criminalization of the opposition. Even the timing of these two cases, one criticizing and comparing Emine Erdoğan to Kaftancıoğlu, the other punishing Kaftancıoğlu clearly smells of revenge. The Turkish-style Presidential system is failing and Erdoğan and his family are aware of it. Every means to suppress the opposition and the press will be used to cling onto power. The judiciary and the security forces serve as a handy tool, but no one knows for how long and to what end. 

December 10, 2020 Judicial reform for whom?