The latest version of protest stickers which have been appearing in supermarket aisles across Turkey since last week, has now arrived on the shelves. The new stickers, which anti-government activists are sticking to products on sale to highlight the high prices, feature a QR code that directs the customer to a short video containing one of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s past statements: “I am the person responsible for Turkey’s economy.”
The stickers, which are placed next to price tags that reflect the extreme price increases of the past few years, say, “Scan the QR code for detailed information about pricing.” Shoppers who who scan the code with their phones hear Erdoğan’s statement of his responsibility in the matter, quoted from his own speech in March 2019, shortly before the last Turkish local elections.
The protest sticker idea first came into being on 5 April, when the designer Mahir Akkoyun shared the stickers he had designed on Twitter for their free use wherever people face inflation and a high cost of living.
“Do you find this product expensive? Thanks to Erdoğan. Keep this in mind when voting” read one of the stickers, along with a photograph of the president, while another, also featuring the image of Erdoğan’s ultra-nationalist ally the National Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, reads “This product is expensive because of us.”
On 7 April, soon after the stickers started to appear in supermarkets, Akkoyun announced on Twitter that he had been arrested by the police on a charge of insulting the president. He was released on the same day, but banned from leaving the country.
Following his release, Akkoyun said that his detention had been a pre-election effort on the part of the government “to intimidate millions of people by wielding a big stick, those millions who are tired of this system of exploitation. But the reactions and the raised voices broke that stick right in the middle.”
People reacted against the detention of the designer, and the reputation of the “Thanks to Erdoğan” stickers spread throughout the country, inspiring other activists and parties to create their own stickers.
As the critical elections on 14 May draw near, Turkey’s broken economy and the frequent price rises are among the top complaints about Erdoğan’s government and his Justice and Development Party, which has been ruling the country for 20 years.
While prices reached today’s high after numerous rises, hyperinflation has even contaminated some of the country’s staple food products. The price of onions, for example, which had increased by 300% by the end of 2022, is being widely referred to in the opposition’s rhetoric during the electoral campaigns.