THE BLOG

My Letter To Erdogan, AKA Turkey's Autocratic Leader

Oh Tayyip, you've done it again, an absolute majority in the presidential elections. To be honest, I never doubted it, but I hoped that this time it wouldn't happen.

I was born in Germany. My parents moved from Turkey to Bavaria more than 40 years ago. When I travel to Turkey every few years, I get sick from seeing how you use the people, how you manipulate the masses.

At the Taksim Square protests last summer, you no doubt succeeded in uniting rival and opposition groups with your actions. Despite the violence then, the power of unity had something amazing about it and many Turks based in Germany found that unity admirable. It seemed as though something would change.

But it was a delusion. Today the situation in Turkey is much worse.

During the local elections earlier this year, friends and relatives on Facebook sent out desperate calls to make sure the ballot boxes and vote totals were monitored from morning till night.

On Twitter, updates were making the rounds about disappearing or burned ballots. Blank ballots were being stamped with votes for the AKP. Citizens watched, filmed and tried to intervene. Some even called the police, but it was a hopeless battle.

Then comes the story about the cat. On election night, in the middle of vote counting, the power in Ankara, Istanbul and other Turkish cities went out. The votes had to be counted by candlelight and there was widespread chaos. The energy minister had a plausible explanation on hand: "I kid you not my friends. It was a cat."

The AKP won.

Turks are an emotive people. We wipe away a tear when the husband in a detergent ad gives his wife a heartfelt and grateful look over cleaning hand towels.

There's nothing wrong with emotions, unless one abuses them for selfish aims. You, dear Tayyip, know the necessary tricks to make that happen. You speak about your "brothers and sisters," about the "honorable citizens," about love, community and gratefulness. And you often begin your sentences with "God willing." Did God approve when you smacked a protester? Did he approve when you handed out forced transfers to dozens of lawyers who put forward corruption allegations against your administration? Religion and emotion, the two long-known tools administrations use to make the public docile.

Nonetheless, you serve the needs of the people. Of course your sisters take out their handkerchief and celebrate the loving prime minister who speaks to them as though they're equals. You inspire the masses in a way that German politicians could only envy.

The fact that you bus in thousands of supporters to your events from the most remote areas of Turkey will remain a footnote, particularly since they were drawn in with money.

Even my 70-year-old grandma chuckles when you speak of democracy, and she's one of your supporters! "Oh, he's just inspired by the politicians that came before him," she says dismissively. "Erdogan steals, but at least we get something for it these days. Things are getting better in this country." The standards aren't exactly high, if you see what I mean.

One has to allow you one thing, though: You've been knocked down many times and you keeping getting back up. In your youth you were a member of an underground political organization. Let's not forget your sojourn in prison. And you were banned from politics, too.

In 2001 you co-founded the AKP. You've been a mayor, a party chairman, prime minister, and now president. It could go to one's head.

Many of your other actions are harder to understand, though, like when you beat and imprisoned demonstrators at the Taksim Square protests. When you crudely pit people against one another. The list could go on and on.

This does not suit a statesman, Tayyip.

You want to be the greatest, the best, the first. Your achievements are there for the whole world to see: countless mega-malls, the largest airport in the world, another bridge over the Bosphorus. No quiet, modest, pencil-pushing work in the back office. No, your work is front and center.

A bit of deception is part of the game, too.

Now that you can't be prime minister after serving three terms, you've summarily become president. And you're floating a constitutional change that will give presidents of Turkey more power.

Despite these terrible politics, the prosperity of Turkey is not scrutinized, especially from citizens who were worse-off earlier in life. Worker protection, civil liberty, self-fulfillment, tolerance, all of these concepts are foreign to them.

You speak to your supporters about a "new era." Your advocates love cheering you on, but your opponents take in those words with terror and angst.

This article was translated from German and was originally published on HuffPost Germany.

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