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Is Erdogan Turkish?



Martine Gozlan (*)

This is the question that every lover of the shores of the Bosporus, their blue domes, this majestic and melancholic horizon, an alloy of oriental sweetness and European freedom, asks himself: this is Turkey’s seal and genius.

From which black box did Erdogan spring to reduce this beauty to nothing? Perhaps from those coffins that Victor Hugo imagined sinking into the shimmering water with the screams of the young victims… Is he Turkish, the man who describes Orhan Pamuk as a traitor, the Proust of the Bosporus, Nobel Prize winner for literature, dreamer inspired by the mysteries of Galata? Is he Turkish, the man who wants every daughter of Eve to lock herself home to procreate, when Ankara gave women the right to vote in 1934, long before Paris?

It is precisely a woman, the journalist Ece Temelkuran, who evokes in a remarkable essay (“How to Lose a country”, Stock) the slogans heard in 2002, in a meeting of AKP activists: “We are the Turkish people. And when I talk about the people, I mean the real people!”. Sinister warning: so there were fake people to be killed. Addressing the young Ece “with the condescension of the machos of Anatolia”, these strong minds developed what they considered to be their thoughts: “You can call us the movement of the Virtuous. We are more than a party, we will change everything in this corrupt system”. Seventeen years later, the “real people” of the “Virtuous”, led by a notoriously corrupt guru, have shaken up Turkey’s image and atmosphere.

Editorialist Kadri Gursel, one of the most brilliant writers of the Cumhuriyet newspaper before being thrown in jail (fortunately he has just left the Silivri penitentiary) wrote in 2016: “The Turkey we knew will not return, a page is being turned, that of a Turkey inspired by the principles of 1923 which are progress, science, reason, gender equality, secularism in order to harmonize with the Western world. This cultural revolution, this process of secularization carried out by Ataturk was accomplished in great pain, which the Islamist movement later used to transform it into a victimization of an ideological nature. For Erdogan, Ataturk is a taboo word, an unpronounceable name… ” In this heartbreaking farewell to the beloved country (“Turkey, Year zero”, Le Cerf) Kadri Gursel expressed the major fears raised by the Erdogan regime. “Democrature” is no more in question, this word forged to define a democracy vaguely tempted by authoritarianism. By adopting by referendum in 2017 a constitution that gives him all the powers, Erdogan has moved up a notch. “Democracy is like the bus, you get off when you get to your destination” he used to say. It’s been a long time since he got off. A heavy iron gate has closed over Turkey, which has become one of those dictatorships that disfigure, render stupid and blood the Arab-Islamic world.

It is true that one day or another, they end up falling. Look at Algeria! This requires that the Supreme Leader has crossed all boundaries. “Will Erdogan go further?” asks Ariane Bonzon, an international reporter stationing in Istanbul for many years, in her latest survey (“Turkey, The moment of truth”, Empreinte editions), “will he engrave Sharia law, Islamic law, into the Constitution? Or include religious provisions in the Civil Code and the Criminal Code? If this allows him to stay in power, he will do so. In any case, he succeeded in imposing Islam as a referent for all parties. The opposition candidate for mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem Imamoglu, who still won, publicly prayed on the Koran and his wife defended the veil… ”
What’s the difference with Emine, Erdogan’s wife, who was an advocate of harems, the ideal place for women’s education in her eyes?

The tragedy is there: in the shift of a country towards an ideology that would be the negation of itself. It is under the portrait of Ataturk that Erdogan eradicated the secularism invented by Mustapha Kemal in 1924. At the time, the newspapers in Cairo headlined: “Farewell the East! “. Today, Erdogan wants to wrap himself in the caftans, gold and wars of the past. It was the fall of Christianity and the capture of Constantinople in 1453 that this pseudo-modern, drunk with conspiracy, constantly invokes. But is his “White Palace” of a thousand rooms and a thousand servants enough to make him a sultan again? Not in the least. Erdogan is a fake Turkish.

* Editor-in-Chief at the weekly french magazine “Marianne” and essayist. In 2011, while Recep Tayyip Erdogan was still worshipped abroad by the naive followers of “moderate Islamism”, she wrote a premonitory book on him: « The Turkish imposture » (Grasset).