October 28, 2015

Turning media into ‘mankurts’ (slaves)

Orhan Kemal Cengiz

The government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in particular have an interesting way of reflecting their intentions, what they are doing and so, on to others.

The latest example of this was Erdoğan's usage of a peculiar word for Turkish academics who wrote a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Drawing attention to the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of Erdoğan, these academics warned Merkel about her visit to Turkey, saying that her visit could be read as showing support to this government and Erdoğan.

Erdoğan was very angry about these academics. He said that they were “mankurts” (enemies made slaves).

“Mankurts” is a Kyrgyz legend told by the great writer Chinghiz Aitmatov, according to which mankurts were prisoners of war who were turned into slaves by having their heads wrapped in camel skin. Under a hot sun these skins dried tight, like a steel hand, thus marking them as slaves. A mankurt did not recognize his name, family or tribe.

Well, Erdoğan uses this word for his opponents but this is a perfect metaphor for how he has enslaved the media in Turkey. In his war with his enemies, so many newspapers have been seized and turned into quite the opposite of what they were -- they have become the slaves of their capturer. Look at the Sabah newspaper, for example, to follow this tragicomic story. Once, it was the most liberal newspaper in Turkey. It was first seized by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), a public institution, and then it was sold to Erdoğan's supporters. It is now the official mouthpiece of the ruling party.

Yesterday, the government made its boldest move in the creation of new mankurts in Turkey. A judge in Ankara appointed a trustee to Koza İpek Holding, which is one of the biggest business conglomerates in Turkey and which, as you might guess, has many critical media outlets, including but not limited to the Bugün and Kanal Turk TV stations and newspapers, under its umbrella.

All 20 companies that belonged to this holding are now ruled by “trustees” appointed by the judge. Of course, you need to replace the word “judge” with the “palace” occupied by the president. The word “trustee” is funny if you look at who has been appointed to these posts. They all have very strong links with the government.

The government is trying to kill one of the biggest business groups by turning it into a mankurt. The companies look the same but their brain has been replaced with something else. There is no doubt that these companies will make some Justice and Development Party (AKP) supporters very rich and the İpek Media Group will be one the biggest supporters of Erdoğan soon. Just as in the legend in which the mankurt did not recognize his mother and even killed her, these newspapers will become biggest enemy of their real owner.

Well, this last step is so crazy even for Erdoğan and makes me think that he must be thinking that the upcoming elections will bring bad results for him. He must be thinking that after the Nov. 1 general election, he may not have the same power and influence on state institutions to make this kind of crazy move.

Well, if he gets the support he wishes on Nov. 1, he will do what he did to Koza İpek to all other opponents and he will keep creating more and more mankurts to continue his journey to create a totalitarian regime in Turkey.

Published on Today's Zaman, 27 October 2015, Tuesday