Erdogan was jailed for a poem and now he’s taking a comedian to court for a poem!
It is kind of a bitter irony that President Recep Tayip Ergogan of Turkey wants to take to court a German comedian for reciting a poem that the Turkish leader found insulting beyond tolerance (as if there could be a bearable German joke!).
Before becoming Prime Minister, Mr. Erdogan had been incarcerated for reciting a poem which the Turkish authorities then deemed provoking beyond tolerance! It was a poem extolling the military prowess of the devout Muslims and how their faith could be used not only spiritually but militarily as well. Minarets, for example, would be the spears of the faithful and other similar primary school metaphors for his mostly parochial – which in Turkey is the majority – followers.
In my humble opinion, he was rightly jailed, not for inciting religious violence, but for his poor taste in poetry! The all-powerful Kemalist regime at the time was allergic, for a lack of a better word, to anything Muslim with the exception of the faith being a key element in the state’s nationalist identity. Erdogan played the persecuted then, victim of an all powerful state apparatus and although a “devout” Muslim himself, head of a Muslim party and movement, he appeared to be pro-European, pro-Western and promising freedom from persecution for all the peoples of Turkey, including Kurds!
Europeans were thrilled, including many Greeks who saw in him the possibility of a less-threatening neighbor in the Aegean and a more honest broker for a just solution in Cyprus. President Barack Obama came short of going to …bed with him! In fact, his first international visit as President was to Turkey, of all places! Erdogan was, in his mind, the Muslim leader who could reconcile traditional Islam and Western values, a bright example for the failed Muslim states in the greater Middle East area and beyond. Turkey’s rapid economic development under the first years of Erdogan as Prime Minister proved the recipe successful and even non – not yet, that is – Muslim states like Greece started seeing religion as good for business, besides being good for votes.
A number of scandals, the Vatopedi Monastery case comes first to mind, shook the country after one minister after another went looking to establish connections with Mount Athos, where money-savvy monks were proving to be more entrepreneurial than most, mostly state subsidized Greek businessmen, and of course more efficient than the government, good mainly to look out for new loans in order to pay salaries and pensions to its voters.
Elsewhere nearby, Arab Spring came and went prematurely as a result of the successful combination of Islam and Western Capitalism that Ergogan applied. The experiment failed throughout, including in Turkey proper, where economic setbacks have come hand in glove with the resurgence of authoritarianism by Erdogan this time who seems to have lost it but unfortunately his power is mostly unchallenged by a discredited political system that feels nostalgic not of democracy but of the secular authoritarianism that preceded him!
Turkey right now is in the verge of exploding and if that happens everybody in the wider area will be affected, her neighbors first. It’s this fear combined with the refugee problem, of which Turkey holds the key that prompted Angela Merkel to go as far as to allow Erdogan’s case against the comedian to proceed in the German courts. Freedom of expression and democracy are always secondary to politicians when power, security and of course victory in the upcoming election are at stake. Moreover, Merkel grew up in communist East Germany and her democratic credentials notwithstanding she can feel Ergogan’s anxiety the same way she can be Putinesque where the situation calls for a …kinkier recipe. Democracy without stability is meaningless and that is something most leaders, not just dictators and brutes, know very well. And it’s also something most of nowadays Western consumers, aka citizens, have come to realize and appreciate equally well …
Speaking of refugees, Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and Archbishop Ieronymos visited the Greek Island of Lesbos a few weeks ago and united their voices with those of the migrants and also of the locals who go out of their way to help them. It was the first time in history that three top tier Christian leaders spoke so highly of…Lesbians and their humanitarian contribution!
Have a beautiful Pascha and may the soon to be Resurrected Christ lift our souls and spirits, same way a Boeing 747 does it when it’s time for our summer trip to Greece!
PS: 1) The primaries continue and I’m a registered Republican who values enormously the right to vote! So, dear candidates submit your offer (always in US dollars) and let the best win …me!
2) A leader and a demagogue are like a lover and a fucker. And depending on the choice made, it tells a lot about the voter …
3) Regardless of what someone might think of the refugees and the illegal immigrants trying to enter Europe through Greece, the fact that so many former Communist countries are eager to close borders and build walls is particularly disheartening, a deja vu so unlikely even a couple of years ago …
4) Up to now we knew of the Panama hats (I have quiet a few, myself). From now on we have the Panama Papers!
5) The more I look at Ted Cruz the more I’m convinced that he suffers from chronic constipation …
6) At this year’s year’s Greek Parade in Montreal, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau showed up and marched along. In New York we had …Mitsotakis (if you don’t know who he is, you don’t know how lucky you are)!