Turkish Minister Encourages Moms to Sing Pro-Erdogan Lullabies

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan gestures as he addresses the media before leaving for Turkmenistan at Esenboga Airport in Ankara August 15, 2013. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
REUTERS/Umit Bektas

A Turkish cabinet minister issued a call to the nation’s mothers to adjust their children’s lullabies to include the policy platform of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, claiming those who are children now wield a special responsibility to make the nation great by the 600th anniversary of the Muslim conquest of Turkey.

Hurriyet quotes Forestry and Water Affairs Minister Veysel Eroğlu in an article in the state publication Anadolu Agency as saying that “women have some missions” regarding implementing Erdogan’s “aims for 2071” plan.

“You will no longer say to your children: ‘Go to sleep and grow.’ You will say: ‘Sleep and rise, my son. The target is 2071. You will realize the footsteps of the Great Turkey,’” Eroğlu suggested. “This nation’s children will succeed in these three targets, which were identified by our president.”

He added that, in addition to the 2071 goals, children today had a particular responsibility to history to contribute to the nation’s greatness. “There is also a target that belongs to the youth: The year 2053 will be the 600th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul. The youth will carry Turkey one step further in this year. We believe in they will plant our flag further,” he argued.

“Newly born babies will convert Turkey to become a global power by 2071, which is the 1,000th anniversary of the Battle of Manzikert… I want to emphasize this especially,” he added.

The demand to include Erdogan in otherwise apolitical activity recalls similar cult of personality practices by authoritarians around the world, such as Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s modification of the Lord’s Prayer as an homage to Hugo Chávez and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s burgeoning hip-hop career.

Erdogan and his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) have spent the last decade developing an intense cult of personality around the President, using pro-government pop singers to spread the message that Erdogan is an “architect of peace” and allowing pseudo-religious displays of loyalty to Erdogan at rallies. A particularly bizarre example of such occurred in 2014 when Erdogan “cured” a fainting woman of an unspecified illness:

As Erdogan addressed the crowd from the platform, a woman was seen fainting. Erdogan gesticulated as if saying “bring her over.” Instead of being taken away by ambulance, the allegedly sick woman was taken to Erdogan. The stretcher was elevated to the platform and Erdogan reached out to the woman. She grabbed his right hand with both hands, screaming “Allah, Allah, Allahu Akbar” (God is great). The screams were heard clearly both at the venue and in the live TV broadcast because Erdogan still had the microphone in his left hand. The footage of the incident hit the Internet media with the tag, “The woman who recovered after holding Erdogan’s hand.”

Erdogan fans have also flooded outlets like YouTube with supportive videos:

Those who support Erdogan cite his promotion of Islam in the public square and the AKP’s free market policies, which have significantly improved the Turkish economy during his tenure.

The government has swiftly silenced those not feeling the enthusiasm for the President, particular those working in the media. The opposition newspaper Zaman, for example, ceased being an independent publication in March, its critical journalism replaced with articles claiming “historic excitement” among Turks for Erdogan projects.

The government has repeatedly raided the offices of Cumhuriyet, the nation’s most prominent secularist opposition publication, and placed multiple senior editors on trial for publishing reports unfavorable to the government. One of these editors, former editor-in-chief Can Dündar, now lives in exile in Germany after being the subject of an assassination attempt shortly before being found guilty of “revealing state secrets.”

As a significantly less forward opposition outlet, Hurriyet has received comparatively little grief from official agencies, instead becoming the target of Erdogan supporters’ wrath. Pro-AKP mobs, including elected politicians, have stormed Hurriyet offices on two occasions, shouting “allahu akbar” and hurling stones into the newspaper’s offices.