BY ASGHAR KHAN
There have been plenty of attempts in the past to take the mickey out of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The Spectator memorably ran a poetry competition under the literary supervision of Douglas Murray – The Spectator’s President Erdogan Offensive Poetry competition – which was won by Boris Johnson, no less, with the following, err, ode:
There was a young fellow from Ankara
Who was a terrific wankerer
Till he sowed his wild oats
With the help of a goat
But he didn’t even stop to thankera.
The Spectator competition came months after Turkey demanded that a German satirical video of Erdoğan, made for comedy programme Extra 3, be deleted. The video included a two-minute song referring to “his showy palace with a thousand rooms, built without permit in a conservation area”. It also mentioned Erdogan’s penchant for “jailing journalists for writing things he doesn’t like.”
Murray justified the poetry competition thus: that “nobody should be surprised that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has instituted effective blasphemy laws to defend himself from criticism in Turkey. But many of us had assumed that these lèse-majesté laws would not yet be put in place inside Europe.”
There is an impression of Erdoğan in the West as some jack-booted, thin-skinned bully-boy who sports lifts. And the man’s paranoia seems to have heightened since the Turkish coup d’état attempt in July last year when, for a short while, it seemed Erdoğan might lose control of Turkey.
Of late, Erdoğan has been involved in wars of words with Germany, calling them Nazis and with the Netherlands, calling them “a Nazi remnant”, after both countries refused to allow Erdoğan emissaries to address Turkish expatriate communities in their countries in order to promote the proposed amendments to the Constitution of Turkey he was seeking. On the 13th of March, Deputy Turkish Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş announced the suspension of high-level diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and Turkey and barred the Dutch ambassador from returning to Ankara.
Meanwhile the Turkish President has presided over some barbaric legislation being thrust over the Turkish State. These included one bill allowing child rapists to go free if they agreed to marry their victim. When the bill was debated and then approved, the hashtag #TecavuzMesrulastirilamaz (Rape Cannot be Legitimised) trended on Twitter, as Turks took to social media to show their disgust. Erdoğan has a history of placating hardline Islamism and allowing some of the aspects of sharia to seep into a previously secular Turkish society.
Things have now moved on and this week the West’s opinion of Erdoğan has sunk to new depths. There is no need to create material or innovative poetry competitions to fluster the man. He seems to have lost the plot altogether.
Speaking in Ankara on Wednesday, Erdoğan said he calls on Europeans to respect democracy, human rights, and freedoms. From his palace in Ankara Erdoğan addressed Europeans who “shake their finger at us. Turkey is not a country that you can toss back and forth, hurt its pride, turn its ministers back from gates and drag its citizens over the ground. Erdoğan said that if Europeans continue acting in this way, “nowhere in the world can any European, any Western safely, peacefully set foot on streets. If you open this dangerous path, you will suffer the most.”
This comes after a threat to Europe last November when declared that he was willing to “open the floodgates” and allow three million mostly Muslim refugees out of Turkey and across into EU states.
While Ankara is an important security partner of NATO and has in the past, in the battle against Isis, been useful intercepting foreign jihadis seeking to reach Syria or Iraq from its territory, Erdoğan’s increasingly high-pitched squealing is making him and Turkey look increasingly ridiculous and untrustworthy.
For many years, Europeans wanted to know where Europe ends. It seems, in an age of wall-building, Mr Erdoğan is doing a fine job in assisting the surveyors and cartographers.
Guest Writer Asghar Khan (pseudonym) was educated at the University of London and works in the City of London as a bond trader. He grew up in Coventry and lives with his family in East London.