It isn’t just the state of the media that provides a wealth of satirical material. Pronouncements and decisions by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have become so arbitrary and extreme in recent months, even careful followers of the current affairs wonder whether what they read is real or Zaytung-style spoof.
Drink at home!
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s weekly speeches at his party group have each become something of an agenda setting, opponent bashing occasion. As well as making the headlines in conventional media, inevitably they feature just as prominently in all kinds of satirical publications. Take the latest speech by the prime minister, telling off the critics of a new law severely restricting the sale, service and advertising of alcohol. Having declared the yoghurt drink “ayran” as the real national drink for Turkey earlier in April
Zaytung didn’t even try to be funny about it. The sentence with reference to two drunkards made it to their headline as it is. Spoof comments that followed weren’t that different to those expressed by the real ones in mainstream media. Both questioned whether the prime minister was referring to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the republic, who was known for his fondness of aniseed flavored raki (now the disgraced former national drink of Turkey). A member of the main opposition party immediately tabled a question about it in Parliament. Zaytung commented that the prime minister finally let the cat out of the bag. Hurriyet daily columnist
The Justice and Development Party government had already taken measures against alcohol by heavily taxing it before. Consumer taxes on raki went up 249% during the past ten years. Outside tourist destinations and big cities, it has already become very difficult to have an alcoholic drink in public spaces in Turkey.
So, alcoholism and alcohol related problems aren’t exactly a pressing public health issue in Turkey. By banning the sale of alcohol from 10 pm to 6 am and by refusing license to premises at a distance less than 100 meters from educational establishments and places of worship, the new law brings fierce limitations on availability and personal choice. According to The Directorate of Religious Affairs, there are
Intervention in personal lives by the government and lecturing by the prime minister has become the norm in Turkey. In June 2012, Mr Erdogan said he was against births by caesarean because it was unnatural. He saw it as a planned move to restrict population growth in Turkey. He also considered abortion, which is currently allowed up to ten weeks, to be murder. Mr Erdogan compared legal terminations to the aerial bombardment of civilians in Uludere near the Iraqi border, where 34 Kurds were killed by the Turkish military in December 2012. “You keep talking about Uludere but every abortion is like an Uludere” he said. The prime minister
Are government and society on the same track?
Growing social and religious conservatism is a fact of life in Turkish society. Tolerance for different life styles and beliefs has been visibly eroding in recent years, particularly in Anatolian towns. Despite having to recalibrate its Syria policy following his visit to the USA and the unanswered questions left by the
Occasional protests becoming visible are quickly and violently put down. For example on the 1st of May, riot police gassed and fired water cannons at demonstrators wishing to attend an International Worker’s Day rally in Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square. The whole city was shut down, traffic restricted and public transportation suspended.
The Government’s rapidly expanding urban renewal projects have turned the country into a big construction site. Giant shopping malls pop out everywhere, often at the expense of already-scarce green spaces. The latest to cause controversy is again in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. The Prime Minister announced last April that one of the rare open green squares, which was the site of an Ottoman army barracks, would be reconstructed to be used as a shopping mall and a residence. When the bulldozers moved in to remove 75 year-old trees, a large and diverse group of demonstrators gathered to stop them. As was the case in every other peaceful demonstration in recent months, the police resorted to tear gas to disperse the crowds. In down raids,
On the 29th May, the 560th anniversary of Istanbul’s conquest, Prime Minister Erdogan, along with Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul, attended the foundation laying ceremony for the $3 billion new bridge to be built over Istanbul’s Bosporus. They decided to name it after the Ottoman sultan Selim the Grim. Yavuz Sultan Selim, as he is known in Turkey, is also renowned for being the first sultan to assume the title of caliph, as well as being notorious for the massacres of Shias and Alevis. The choice of the name for the latest Istanbul landmark infuriated Turkey’s Alevis.
Thanks to a handful of courageous young satirists, Turkey may at last be discovering “how to recognise irony,” but “consensus” seems still to remain a totally alien concept.