IN AUGUST, in the eastern Anatolian city of Malatya, before thousands of flag-waving fans and boosters, Turkey’s then prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, paced an outdoor campaign stage, on his way to becoming the country’s first directly elected president. Against a backdrop repeating his election slogan—National Will National Power—Erdoğan riled the crowd with a tale of something he’d recently seen on a television chat show. “And there,” he thundered over the loudspeakers, “it turned out there was a militant disguised as a journalist! An ill-bred woman!”
Erdoğan was referring to an interview between Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, and Amberin Zaman, a local journalist and a correspondent for The Economist. Kılıçdaroğlu had been arguing that government supporters were not “questioning” enough, when Zaman challenged him. Isn’t a culture of questioning, she asked, too high an expectation in Turkey, a Muslim country? Islam is centred on the congregation, not the individual, she said, and Turkish education favours propaganda over critical thinking.
“Know your place!” Erdoğan berated Zaman. “They put a pen in your hand and you write a newspaper column. They put you, of all people, on [television] … you are disrespecting and insulting a public that is 99-percent Muslim … Go ahead, carry on thinking that way!”