Erdogan says he will legally forgive those who have insulted him
I have previously documented Erdoğan’s aversion to being insulted, which in my judgment merited him the epithet, Erdoğan the thin-skinned.1 For those unfamiliar with the situation, Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code makes insulting the Turkish president a criminal offense punishable by up to 4 years in jail. This law is commonly enforced; around 1,800 such legal cases are pending prosecution, and since August 2014 over 1,300 Turks have been arrested for such mean-spirited behavior.
Since my last chronicling of such cases, more have occurred in Turkey. Former Miss Turkey Merve Büyüksaraç has been sentenced to over 1 year in prison for sharing a supposedly anti-Erdoğan poem on Instagram.2 In response to the incident Merve says she has “lost faith in the Turkish justice system.” Another famous Turk, former soccer star and AKP MP Hakan Şükür, who is facing prosecution for using twitter to accuse Erdoğan of theft, has wisely left Turkey and is now residing in the US.3
CHP deputy Eren Erdem, who has been convicted of insulting Erdoğan, has, as a result of his conviction, been effectively banned from traveling abroad.4 On July 4 he was forcibly removed from a passenger plane bound for Berlin. His party leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has been court ordered to pay Erdoğan 50,000 Turkish liras for calling the president a “sham dictator.”5 Furthermore, in separate incidences a retired teacher and a young man have been arrested for insulting the president on social media.6
While Erdoğan appears to be as thin-skinned as ever, he also appears to have had a remarkable change of heart. On July 29, he announced that his lawyers would withdraw all lawsuits filed against people who have insulted him.7 In the president’s own words:
“For one time only, I will be forgiving and withdrawing all cases against the many disrespects and insults that have been leveled against me. … I feel that if we do not make use of this opportunity correctly, then it will give the people the right to hold us by the throat. … So I feel that all factions of society, politicians first and foremost, will behave accordingly with this new reality, this new sensitive situation before us.”
Such magnanimous behavior is uncharacteristic for Erdoğan. Maybe he wanted to give his legal team, who were charging people left and right for insulting their boss, a much needed break. Or maybe, after political opposition groups supported him during and after the attempted coup, he realized the tactfulness of forgiving his political enemies on the matter in question. His political opposition is already praising his withdrawal of the lawsuits. Kılıçdaroğlu, who has been the frequent target of the president’s litigation, has called Erdoğan’s move “elegant” and “a step towards smoothing tensions.”8
However, maybe something else is going on. It is interesting to note that Organ Pamuk, a Turkish nobel prize winning author, has characterized Erdoğan’s use of Article 299 as follows:9 “This has nothing to do with insulting the president. This is only about silencing political opposition. This is about intimidating people and scaring the country so nobody would criticize the government.” So if we juxtaposed Pamuk’s assessment with Erdoğan’s post-coup purging of all sectors of Turkish society and state10, which is clearly intended to neuter his opposition (military, judicial, journalistic, etc.), then an inconsistency becomes evident. Why would Erdoğan ruthlessly go after some of his enemies while showing forgiveness others?
The most reasonable answer is that this is a calculated move by Erdoğan intended to lull his opposition, among the people and fellow politicians, into a false sense of security as he continues his purge and the implementation of his desired ‘presidential’ system. While the post-coup support shown for Erdoğan is remarkable, many in Turkey are uneasy with his purge. As such his act of forgiveness is undoubtedly meant to ease their concerns. It should also be remember that Erdoğan qualified his forgiveness with “For one time only,” so one should not get too used to such behavior from the sultan.
In conclusion, one wonders how the new forgiving Erdoğan will respond to the latest cover of the satirical magazine Titanic, which pictures him with a limp sausage stating “Erdogan’s stressed: Even his penis is staging a putsch.”11 I wonder how forgiving Erdoğan will be when he sees the cover of Titanic?
 Attempted military coup in Turkey has been quelled , Update on the failed Turkish coup part 1 and part 2.
 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/former-miss-turkey-sentenced-to-prison-for-insulting-erdogan.aspx?pageID=238&nID=99899&NewsCatID=509 , http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/former-miss-turkey-says-she-has-lost-faith-in-justice-after-insult-sentence.aspx?pageID=238&nID=99996&NewsCatID=509
 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/retired-teacher-arrested-for-insulting-erdogan-on-social-media-in-turkeys-northwest.aspx?pageID=238&nID=101976&NewsCatID=509 , https://www.turkishminute.com/2016/07/28/man-arrested-in-izmir-for-insulting-erdogan-on-social-media/