Monday, 8 December 2014


Seldom would you hear a democratically elected leader of an overwhelmingly Muslim country talking about "anti-Semitism" and describing it publicly as "a crime against humanity." That is what Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then prime minister, declared in 2009. He was condemning both the Gaza attack by the Israeli Armed Forces and the reaction against Jewish populations. Taking such an unquestionable stance vis-à-vis anti-Semitic ideology did not help Erdoğan be labelled an anti-Semite. He has been adamant in trying to clarify his government's attitude by saying, "Our criticism is not directed to the Jews. It is only and solely directed at the Israeli administration and its policies, and no one should distort this. There is a distinction here," he argued. "Whenever we criticize the massacring of innocent women in Palestine, some circles engage in a campaign to distort the perceptions about Turkey. Whenever we criticize the killing of innocent children, babies, in the Middle East, some media organizations target us." 

The president's analysis proved to be prophetic recently. A few days ago, he attended the opening ceremony of an international summit, organized by KADEM (the Association for Women and Democracy), entitled "Women and Justice." His introductory speech was cleverly written, talking about the "justice" that needs to be conveyed to women, because obviously existing legislation doesn't really help overcome the problems encountered by women. The analysis was pertinent and it was not at all confined to Turkey's case. Despite the fact that legislation in democratic countries gives "equal treatment" to every citizen in the eyes of the law, the system does not "equally" deliver justice to all, as shown in the recent troubles in the U.S. town of Ferguson. 

The whole speech has been totally disregarded by a large part of the press, which played on a misunderstanding where the president talked about a distinction to be made between "equal" and "equivalent." This was a vital point in his speech, where president Erdoğan was trying to say that equal rights embedded into the legislation were not enough, women decidedly needed "positive discrimination" in order to get their rightful place in society. The distorted translation of his speech has been turned into "Erdoğan does not believe in women/men equality."

As incredible as it sounds, the whole incident took on galactic proportions and in no time, through conventional or social media, the news traveled the world. The next day, The New York Times used the headline that almost all major international press organs produced, mostly insulting or ridiculing the president.

It is obvious that there is a black propaganda machine in motion, which has proved effective in distorting the deeds and words of the Turkish government, but most precisely that of President Erdoğan. This makes the whole situation favorable to the opposition; however it should be underlined that Turkey's image is being degraded continuously, independently of the government. This is a dirty and dangerous game. Turkish democracy and political life certainly deserve better.


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