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HomeHeadlineWhen the Accused Becomes the Accuser: Political Rhetoric and Corruption in Turkey

When the Accused Becomes the Accuser: Political Rhetoric and Corruption in Turkey

“If you make a thief forget that he is a thief, he will start giving you lessons on morality!” This situation is exactly like the phrase attributed to the French. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is trying to attack Ekrem İmamoğlu, the Mayor of Istanbul, over his controversial trip to Rome.

Ekrem İmamoğlu also reminded Erdoğan about his planes, saying, “Is the president going to teach me how to protect public money? Even the president of Germany uses only one plane, while you are using eight in this country. I could talk for hours about the extreme waste.” While Erdoğan and his media try to damage İmamoğlu with his trip to Rome, İmamoğlu’s team is in a mode of ‘The pot calling the kettle black!’ It seems that this controversy will continue for a long time.

Don’t be surprised if Erdoğan and İmamoğlu engage in such controversies when there are major issues in Turkey. For Erdoğan, İmamoğlu is an opponent he has lost to three times and he is burning with a desire for revenge. So, he will attack İmamoğlu at every opportunity.

Pray that their moves remain limited to the criticisms made into the microphones during this incident. It is also likely that he will use mafia-like organizations that have become part of the judiciary and the regime. I want to approach this controversy from a different perspective.


Tayyip Erdoğan is already wrong, but İmamoğlu is also not right in this controversy. As I have analyzed before in this column, taking 45 journalists to Rome like he did, based on examples from the USA, would have ended his political career there. Simply put, there is no defensible side to what İmamoğlu did.

Chartering a plane for ordinary news and spending the public’s money on luxury hotels is mind-boggling. Especially since the voters of Istanbul, tired of such lavish trips under Erdoğan and the AKP, had turned to İmamoğlu. If İmamoğlu is not going to do anything different from Erdoğan, why would voters choose you again? Was the alternative you presented just changing the journalists you took on your plane?

I have spoken at length before. Except for a few exceptions, every politician wants to create their own partisan media. That’s why there are strict regulations in the USA and EU countries. As long as we do not adapt those regulations to Turkey, the players may change but the system remains the same.

Back to the essence… During Erdoğan’s time as mayor, prime minister, and president, corruption peaked. İmamoğlu took office after 25 years of the AKP – National Vision tradition. The general expectation was that he would expose the corruptions of the previous periods one by one, explaining the theft and plunder to the public.

They started with a car show on the first day, displaying cars given to partisans from municipal resources, but it didn’t continue. İmamoğlu finished his first term without making any significant, visible disclosures.

Imagine, you come to office after an administration that plundered Istanbul like a swarm of locusts, but you fail to present any corruption files! İmamoğlu and his supporters immediately resort to the defense, “The judiciary is in their hands, who are you going to complain to!”

Yes, the judiciary has become a toy in the hands of the Palace, and this was facilitated by the events of July 15th. İmamoğlu and his team voluntarily applauded this setup, but you present the corruption files to the public, complain to them. If the judiciary does not act, at least you are cleared of blame. Moreover, you see massive corruption wherever you turn your head. It wouldn’t have taken much effort.

However, neither in Istanbul nor in Ankara have the expected corruption files been released. What about Ankara? A place plundered by Melih Gökçek and his gang for 25 years. Corruption, looting, and robbery are dripping from the Gökçek family’s cuffs.

But like Mansur Yavaş, İmamoğlu also made a few eye-catching moves and then closed the file. Was the only corruption Gökçek committed taking the armored official car with him after he left office?

There’s no point in dragging this out, wasting time.

If Ekrem İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş had done what was expected of them, exposing the corruptions of the AKP era to the public, Erdoğan couldn’t have criticized İmamoğlu’s trip to Rome.

It seems like a joke, but it isn’t; the man who on the phone was ‘zeroing out billions of dollars at home, stacking billions of dollars under his house,’ is trying to give lessons to his opponents.

As the French say, “If you make a thief forget that he is a thief, he will start giving you lessons on morality!”

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Adem Yavuz Arslan
Adem Yavuz Arslan
Adem Yavuz Aslan is a leading Turkish investigative journalist in exile based in Washington, D.C.

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