By Burak Bekdil
We must be fair to the House of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) on one particular account: Years of outstanding, unselfish, devoted and untiring (albeit quite unwilling) commitment to the advancement of Turkish humour. The most popular ever Turkish political party is probably also the most amusing joke ever of Turkish political life.
The more the AKP bigwigs illustrate their inherent intolerance to humor, the more they are being teased en masse. The best Turkish humor newspaper, Zaytung, was born and has prospered during AKP’s mature years. Some of the last “news updates” on Zaytung’s page include lead paragraphs like: NASA has announced it found traces of “foreign conspirators” on Mars; Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan challenges the U.S. dollar now being traded at 2.16 against the Turkish lira, “The nation will decide at the ballot box how much you are worth,” “The Foreign Ministry has sent a protest note to Japan upon the resignation of a Japanese governor on corruption allegations.”
The trouble is, however, at times like these, one tends to get confused over headlines, not immediately capturing which one is Zaytung and which one is real. For a few moments, I thought I was still on Zaytung’s page when I read on Hürriyet that, “a pensioner lady who held out a shoe box from her balcony during Mr. Erdoğan’s party rally was detained by the police, and was interrogated for four hours.” Turkey has become a true Zaytungland, which is fun as long as you are not the subject of news.
The heroine of the Zaytung-ish Hürriyet news was a woman who wanted to protest the stacks of cash ($4.5 million) found in shoeboxes at the home of the general manager of a state-run bank. Her monthly pension was less than $350, she explained at the police station and she wanted to peacefully protest. Surprisingly, she was released, although prosecution is a possibility.
“Foreign conspirators and their local agents” have been the pillar of defense for Mr. Erdoğan since Turkey’s “freedom summer,” or simply Gezi. Since June, Mr. Erdoğan has repeatedly said he would reveal their identities “soon.” In a series of public speeches last week – almost carbon copies of one single text – Mr. Erdoğan mentioned the usual suspects without naming them.
The prime minister added one more culprit, though, in particular reference to a now-blocked investigation into corruption at the state railway company, “Those who envy the success of this company and who want to sabotage our high-speed train project.” His description of the culprit revealed one more detail, “Those who prefer the old trains to the high-speed train.” Is it not great that we now have a new terrorist network that goes with the name “Nostalgic Train Car Lovers’ Front?”
During a week of rallies, Mr. Erdoğan was not always protested with shoeboxes. In fact, his supporters came to listen to the “Grand Master” in thousands with colorful placards that read, “You’ll never walk alone,” and “Our hero Erdoğan.” One particular slogan at those rallies, taken with smiles and thanks by Mr. Erdoğan, was “Jihadist Erdoğan.”
Summing up the three slogans, the message is clear: Mr. Erdoğan is a jihadist hero whom his supporters will never abandon. Nice.
One could have gone to jail for calling Mr. Erdoğan a jihadist hero. Fortunately, his party loyalists have now perfectly legitimized that description- Jihadist Erdoğan. But why would thousands call the prime minister a jihadist hero when he is battled by embarrassing corruption scandals which, in a saner country, would have sent anyone involved into the political wasteland?
It was not unintentional that Mr Erdoğan declared a political war on Israel. In these lands, being a “jihadist” is like a gratis full motor insurance policy with a bonus scheme: You speed and crash into a Ferrari, and someone else pays for all the damage. The bonus is that you are declared a hero for the crash. What may have caused the accident? Foreign conspirators, of course. And the Nostalgic Train Car Lovers’ Front.