Living in Turkey is like having a crazy booze-filled night out with strangers and trying to piece it all together the next morning as you struggle to sober up while life rushes on. Our political and social memories are quite short-term, and somehow despite vowing that we would never again experience a wild night followed by a massive hangover, we are faced with an endless headache. Everyday another political debacle crops up and we forget what had previously been the focus of public discourse.
Nobody would like to see the return of the crisis-filled coalition government days of the Nineties, but at least back then--even as a child--one found entertainment in what the people in the government said. Now, there is almost no humor left. With the Lira losing its value, youth unemployment at 20%,and no shortage of nonsense statements from the country’s elected officials--and unfortunately, decisions--made by its administrators, the country has turned into an absolute hellhole.
While people abroad might occasionally frown for a moment at a world news headline about what President Erdoğan has said, we in Turkey have to live with those words. During the past month, we have seen Erdoğan spew out claims that Muslims discovered the Americas, that Westerners don’t like Turks/Muslims, and that women are not equal to men.
Sure, these remarks could simply be attributed to Erdoğan’s efforts at masking the cost of his new lavish presidential palace, which he built illegally at the price of around 700 million USD. The reality, however, is that these words are more than simply a distraction. The three statements above ought to cause the public to demand the resignation of the president or other government officials. You cannot make wild claims just because you are the most powerful man in the country. Normally, a string of apologies should follow such statements, but the Turkish public has become oblivious to such claims. A simple shrug is all you get from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) voters when they are asked their opinion.
Thirteen years ago: the ultra-Islamist Erdoğan was on television with his supposed new style, declaring that his jihad-waging, West-hating, secularism-dreading days were long gone, and that he had “changed by progressing.” This new Erdoğan was a bastion of democratic ideals, or so he would have us believe. The opposition at the time knew this to be a ploy and warned the public that this hypocrite was simply taking advantage of the 2001 financial crisis to steal their votes. Everyone suddenly forgot how hard-line Erdogan was in reality. As time went on, with the AKP transforming Turkey into an Islamic country, his venomous ideas were ignored.
When Erdoğan said he was a democrat and a liberal, he was simply lying. He had already said that he saw democracy as a means to an end, and one could “get off the train of democracy when they have achieved their goals.” It is shameful that a country that gave equal rights to women earlier than most of the current European Union states is now administered by minds like Erdoğan’s. You could only find the equivalent of this thought process centuries ago, which is what Erdoğan surprisingly did to as he compared the death toll of the Soma mine disaster to mining accidents of the Nineteenth Century. As if it were normal today to continue to have such disasters.
When Erdoğan is accused of helping the Islamic State, he responds with fury but his ideas are no different than the mujahideen of whom he repeatedly says he does not approve. He would like women to stay at home, be good wives and bear at least three children (and more if they can). His party members would like women not to laugh. Erdoğan himself criticised a young female protestor saying “I’m not sure if she’s a girl or a woman.” This is misogyny of highest order and is not fair to a nation which has valued women and given them every chance to improve themselves.
Historically, the Turks have had a culture that did not degrade women or see them as inferior. Turkey deserves more than a bunch of dark-age demagogues as leaders. We deserve progressive minds at the helm. As a teacher, I am shocked to see Turkish society losing its main values, with the younger generations becoming more and more narrow-minded as a result of an educational system that forces struggling students to join the nearest Islamic schools.
Iran and Afghanistan became what they are after a series of difficulties in these countries gave the power to Islamists/Jihadists. Now, Iran, a country proud with its poets, literature and science has its civilian police Basij beating women on the streets. If you are a woman in Afghanistan these days, you are mostly confined to your house. These are scenes that would make Erdoğan salivate. The fact is, he never really changed, which is precisely why he is trying his best to undermine women and secular values. He will put forth his utmost effort to make Turkey a living hell for women.
This latest example of claiming women and men are not equal embodies the 12-year AKP rule in Turkey. Incidentally, the previous president Abdullah Gül was in his thirties working as a lecturer at a university when he married a 15-year-old girl he hadn’t even met properly. He saw nothing wrong with this. This is what Turks are dealing with, and it is not surprising to see femicide skyrocket when the country is governed by such figures.
Turks know that they do not want to be ruled by Islamic law, and they certainly do not want their democracy to be marred by people who have hijacked it to their means, pointing to their vote count in every illogical law they enforce. Erdoğan, his light version Davutoğlu, and the AKP need to be stopped before it’s too late.