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Erdogan is too touchy

Baha Güngör / dcNovember 4, 2014

Erdogan is mad at Germany. And not for the first time. This time, it's about a cartoon showing his name painted on a doghouse. But the Turkish president should stay cool, says Baha Güngör.

Türkischer Präsident Erdogan
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Recep Tayyip Erdogan often wastes his energy on silly things. A few days ago, the Turkish president scolded some young people who were smoking at a street café because they didn't see fit to put out their cigarettes in the presence of Turkey's top statesman. A royal offence! And one that can have consequences. Every journalist who dares say something critical about Erdogan risks losing his or her job. Every media company that doesn't show the appropriate reverence faces the wrath of their head of state.

A dog called Erdogan

Erdogan has taken to acting in the manner of an Ottoman sultan. Anyone who thinks differently, let alone speaks differently, should prepare themselves for the consequences. That might work in Turkey, but in Europe, where the media, the unions, political parties, and civil rights organizations are protected by the democratic system, no one has to pay heed to Erdogan's touchiness.

Deutsche Welle Türkisch c
Baha Güngör runs DW's Turkey deskImage: DW

It was some three years ago that two cartoonists created a caricature for a major Sunday newspaper playing on Bavarian stereotypes to mark 50 years of Turkish immigration to Germany. One part of the drawing features a doghouse emblazoned with Erdogan's name and a mean-looking dog on a leash. Three years ago, the cartoon simply amused newspaper readers, but in the meantime, it has found its way into a school textbook in southern German state of Baden-Württemberg. The cartoonists could be criticized for not considering, or willfully ignoring, the low status of dogs in Turkish culture. For Turks, dogs are considered dirty and annoying. Choosing to name a dog after Erdogan is certainly a provocation. But in our modern, democratic society, provoking politicians and their parties is commonplace in the media.

Not confident, not cool

If the drawing hadn't been published in a textbook, it wouldn't have been an issue anymore. The summons given to the German ambassador in Ankara is the newt highpoint of the pettiness and tension in relations between Ankara and Berlin. Unfortunately, Erdogan is a long way from being a cool, confident statesman. In wanting to twist democracy to suit himself, he reveals just how foreign a concept it still is to him.