Democratic anomaly became the new Turkish normal several years ago. The anomaly, sometimes, offers entertaining moments, too. Take, for instance, Parliament Speaker Binali Yıldırım, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s most important political confidant (and former prime minister), who became the joke of the day when he declared: “Animals, too, are living beings”. Someone teased him on social media: “He is right. And I am adding: Plants, too, are living beings.” A few days later Yıldırım, under fire from the opposition because he refuses to resign as parliament speaker although he would run for mayor of Istanbul in nationwide local elections on March 31 (they cite the constitution which bans the impartial parliament speaker from engaging in any political activity), amused a whole nation when he said: “Elections are not political activity”. Not all Turkish anomalies are as entertaining as this one.
What most Turks thought was a joke in the past few years now appears to be bitter reality. The joke goes: One day a political prisoner asks his guard if he could borrow from the prison library a certain work of fiction written by a certain author. The guard answers: We don’t have that book in our library. But if you want, I can bring you its author. He is here.”
A journalist recently uncovered the true story behind what millions of Turks mistakenly thought was just a joke. An academic, Mehmet Altan, detained on charges of “giving subliminal messages for a coup,” asked a guard if he could borrow a book written by his brother, Ahmet. “We don’t have that book,” said the guard, “but the author is here.”