Erdogan’s delusional candor
During a recent interview with 60 Minutes Turkish President Erdoğan made an apt self-characterization saying “I have been known for my candor” and then proceeded to express his recent disillusionment with the US government.1 Since Erdoğan is not afraid to candidly express himself, he frequently makes controversial statements, some of which are patently absurd.
For instance during a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of Ataturk’s death he stated, “Today, visit anywhere in Syria, Iraq, North Africa, the Middle East or the Balkans, and ask the people there their opinions of Turkey, and you will see no one mentions colony, invasion, oppression or massacres alongside Turkey. Instead, you hear the symbolic call, ‘Truehearted Turks here again!’”2 If we are to believe Erdoğan than all of the nations neighboring Turkey have nothing but good memories and warm feelings towards Turks. If Erdoğan actually believes this then he is out of his mind.
Lets start with the Armenians, who clearly associate Turks with massacre and ethnic genocide, as they have never forgotten the horrors of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated a century ago by the Ottomans. Furthermore the genocide of 1917 was not solely limited to Armenians, but almost 1 million Pontic Greeks and Assyrian Christians were also ethnically cleansed.
As for invasions, all of the nations of the Balkans–Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania, and those who were once apart of Yugoslavia–all have been invaded and occupied for centuries by the Ottoman Turks. Very few Greeks view the Ottoman occupation favorably, instead seeing it as a period of humiliation, oppression and regression. I am very sure such views are shared by the inhabitants of most other Balkan nations. In more recent times, the nations of Iraq and Syria also view Turkey as an aggressive neighbor, following the latter’s unwanted military interventions in the northern portions of their countries. It seems that Erdoğan is quite out of touch with the popular sentiments of neighboring countries towards Turkey.
Another example of Erdoğan’s distorted view of things can be found during his interview with Al Jazeera, when he claimed:3
“Such a problem [about freedom of expression] does not exist in my country. Everyone lives, speaks, dresses, eats and drinks the way they want. We have never imposed any ban on anything [concerning these matters]. Turkey has not been a country with bans. In past years, not counting the last 14 years [when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) ruled the country], Turkey has never been a country with as much freedom, peace and comfort as it has now.”
So Turkey has no problems with freedom of expression? Is that why thousands of people have been charged with insulting President Erdoğan and other government officials, and dozens of journalists have been imprisoned? As for the rest of the statement Burak Bekdil does an excellent job of revealing its comic absurdity.4
As Bekdil writes “The problem is that Mr. Erdoğan is not a stand-up comedian trying to give his audience spasms of laughter. The problem is that he really believes in what he says.” The other problem is that Erdoğan is not some inadvertently entertaining two-bit talking head, but he is the leader of a powerful and important country in the Middle East. Unfortunately Erdoğan’s forthright delusions may lead to many tears instead of laughter.