Erdoğan’s image in the West


Date posted: May 7, 2014


For the last few months, I have been travelling in several countries, including Australia, Switzerland, Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Spain, the US, etc. Wherever I go, I meet with academics, diplomats, journalists, intellectuals and so on who closely follow what is going on in Turkey.

This is of course not a scientific study, but the people I have spoken to are aware of what is going on in Turkey. Yes, some of them also have some questions about the Hizmet movement and criticize it as well. But they all agree that the Hizmet movement has been the victim of Erdoğan’s relentless psychological campaign. None of them buy his conspiracy theories and none of them understand why he had not said anything about the so-called parallel state until the corruption case of Dec. 17, 2013. For them, Erdoğan has become like any other Middle Eastern authoritarian ruler who does not care about democracy. Erdoğan’s supporters who write or speak in English are closely followed by these people as well, but they are not seen to be convincing.These people are aware of what Erdoğan, his friends and his media say and write in Turkish. They have all heard about what he keeps saying or implying in public rallies, where he continues to use anti-Western and anti-Israeli sentiments. The last example was Erdoğan’s reference to the German president. They read Erdoğan’s remark that the German president “may think he is still a Christian priest.” One does not have to be a genius to understand that he was playing to all sorts of stereotypical, demonizing images of “Crusader priests” in his voters’ minds.The Gezi Park events were an eye-opener for all of them. They watched closely as Erdoğan invented some vague enemies to present himself as the victim during the Gezi protests. They clearly see that, similar to what he did during the Gezi events, he is falsely accusing the Hizmet movement of being the puppet of these Western, Judeo-Christian enemies. His attempts to shut down YouTube and Twitter are telling enough for the democratic world. His harsh reaction to the Constitutional Court on Twitter, telling the court that it was not acting in the national interest but in line with a foreign company’s interests, are understood very clearly. I am sure his media’s reaction to the Freedom House report stating that the Turkish media are no longer free will also be heard by these people. They will all read with irritation how his media wrote that the chair of Freedom House is Jewish, and that’s is why this institution is against Erdoğan, etc.

We keep saying that Erdoğan does not have wise advisors anymore. He, his advisors and his supporters seem to think that if Today’s Zaman does not publish in English what they say and write in Turkish, these comments will not be heard in the world. What kind of mindset is this in this age? They have launched Daily Sabah and Turkey Agenda to tell the world how the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Erdoğan are so nice, but they forget the fact that there are many foreign diplomats, journalists, etc., in Turkey who read Sabah, Akşam, Star, Akit and Yeni Şafak every day. I am sure they read these newspapers with horror. But it is certain that Erdoğan’s psychological warfare has worked in Turkey, and he may have been able to convince about 40 percent of the voters with his conspiracy theories, though I have not seen anyone abroad who believes him. Yes, of course, foreigners do not vote in the elections, but Erdogan’s appearance on the American PBS channel’s Charlie Rose show indicates that he still cares what the world thinks of him. And yet, he cannot cheat anyone with his doublespeak. Even his appearance on PBS reconfirmed that he is someone who sees himself above the law.

Source: Todays Zaman , May 7, 2014

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