Campaigns against critics as Erdogan’s lifeline

Status: 01/25/2022 09:00 a.m

An old song suddenly caused outrage among the religious conservatives in Turkey, and President Erdogan fueled them with drastic threats. A diversion from the country’s economic problems?

By Karin Senz, ARD Studio Istanbul

Sezen Aksu sings about Adam and Eve and calls them ignorant. For five years – that’s how old her song is – it didn’t really bother anyone. Now they are massively attacking religious conservatives, because Muslims consider Adam to be a prophet. One of them is Erol Bulut, who is making a press statement with a group in front of the Istanbul courthouse: “Anyone who continues to attack our religion, our faith and our values ​​must know: We are no longer the old Turkey. The giant has woken up. Distinguished citizens, the sacred verses say that faith and bigotry are enemies to the end of time. We stand on the side of faith. We are the champions of that faith.”

Karen Senz
ARD-Studio Istanbul

During Friday prayers, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan followed up in the mosque: “No one can and should insult Holy Adam. If someone does, then it may be our duty to tear their tongues out of their mouths. “

The Istanbul Islam theologian Ihsan Eliacik does not mention Erdogan’s name in an interview on Turkish television, but accuses conservative politicians of abusing the religion: Talking about tearing out your tongue during Friday prayers in a mosque – that is the “final push” of a campaign. Erdogan targets and manipulates the singer. “From now on, such campaigns will come in waves.”

For years, her song didn’t really bother anyone. Now Selen Aksu is under massive criticism and is publicly threatened.

Bild: imago stock&people

The polls are falling

Turkey is in the middle of a currency and economic crisis with historically high inflation. The polls of Erdogan’s governing party AKP and those of his coalition partner, the nationalist MHP, are falling. The Turkish journalist Murat Yetkin picks it up on his YouTube channel: Things aren’t going well anymore, and Erdogan is asking the people for patience, promising victory as if they were at war. The citizens, however, suffered financial hardship. What, Yetkin asks, “does Erdogan still have? Faith and religion act like a lifeline. Faith, religion … and misogyny.”

Because the singer Aksu is not the only woman who has problems with critical statements. The well-known Turkish television journalist Sefer Kabas has been in a women’s prison in Istanbul since the weekend. On Friday evening, the 52-year-old quoted two proverbs on a television station critical of the government: “A crowned head becomes wise,” she says, and continues: “But we see that that’s not always the case.” She doesn’t say who she means by that, doesn’t name a name. Not even in the second proverb: “When an ox moves into a palace, it does not become a king. The palace becomes a stable.”

She later repeated this on Twitter. President Erdogan’s spokesman, Fahrettin Altun, reacted the same evening and tweeted that it was not up to anyone to insult the president, who had been doing great service for freedom of expression in Turkey for years. He also wrote that a so-called journalist had blatantly insulted the President on television. It had no other goal than to spread hatred.

High penalties for insulting the President

The police arrested Kabas on Saturday night for insulting the president. In Turkey, this is a criminal offense that can carry up to four people in prison. There are thousands of lawsuits and lawsuits for insulting the President.

Murat Yetkin explains on his YouTube channel that Erdogan believes he can gain respect by forbidding others to criticize him: “Erdogan wants anyone who criticizes him to regret it.”

The pressure fizzles out for now

In the case of Kabas, that doesn’t seem to be working until now. After visiting her in prison, the Turkish media quoted her lawyer as saying that she was in good spirits and not afraid because she was right. And Sezen Aksu receives prominent support from more than 200 cultural workers, including the Nobel Prize winner for literature Orhan Pamuk. He told a news portal critical of the government: “Sezen Aksu is the pride of all of us. We will not be a people or a state that oppresses its artists.”

And the 67-year-old herself cannot be defeated either. She wrote a new song. It read, “You can’t rip my tongue out” and “I’ve been writing for 47 years. I’ll keep writing.”

diversionary tactics? Critical singer and journalist under pressure in Turkey

Karin Senz, ARD Istanbul, 24.1.2022 6:51 p.m

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