Professor Hasan Herken, the dean of the medical faculty at Turkey’s Pamukkale University, resigned after he mocked a man dressed as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “16 warriors,” representative of various manifestations of the Turkish empires throughout history.
Turkish President Erdogan attends Medieval Times Dinner Tournament pic.twitter.com/tNgpVAbCUV
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“Which Turkish principality is this one wearing a bathrobe?” tweeted the professor. He deleted the tweet shortly thereafter, but not before authorities saw it. He insists he did not insult Erdogan or Turkey’s proud history. “Feeling responsible for and wanting to avoid a situation where the university will become a target to serve other purposes, I leave my post as a dean,” he wrote in a statement. “I will continue with my studies as an academic at the psychiatry department.” Herken told CNNTürk that he received death threats against both himself and his family over the tweet. The Justice and Development Party (AK), which is Erdogan’s party, protested against Herken by sending him a bathrobe. Even though Herken did not mean harm by his remark, the image of Erdogan resonated deeply with some people. Marc Chapman at BloombergView admitted that though the photo made him laugh out loud, “it’s part of a broad and deadly serious attempt to reinvent the Republic of Turkey.” The picture was taken at Erdogan’s brand new presidential palace, which “is four times as big as Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles” and is the largest residence in the world. It also cost the taxpayer $615 million. BloombergView reports:
The Turkish president is trying to make several points. The first is that his country has arrived as a world power: The White House is only 55,000 square feet; Erdogan’s new house is 3.1 million square feet. The second message is that he has arrived as president, and that it is a much bigger job than when he took office.
His political opponents also see another message: Erdogan wants to show he isn’t beholden to the traditions of Turkey’s secularizing founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who built the existing presidential residence at Cankaya. That interpretation has merit: Erdogan doesn’t want to follow Ataturk or live in his house. He wants to displace him and become the religiously conservative founder of a redirected republic.
It is more than the palace, though. Erdogan is changing Turkey from within:
So although he is now the president, Erdogan this week convened a meeting of the cabinet that he used to run as prime minister, shoving aside his pliant successor Ahmet Davutoglu. Still not satisfied, Erdogan reiterated that he wants to amend the constitution, formalizing a transfer of power to the presidency. The exertion of power extends to speech. This week the government pushed a law through parliament that would give individual cabinet ministers the power to block any website within four hours and without a court order.
The spectacle occurred when the notoriously anti-Israel president hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:
As Chapman noted, many made fun of the picture on social media:
I really didn’t get that photo with Erdogan. pic.twitter.com/xX9SCDlkeG
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