Footage emerged of Kurds in Kadıköy in Istanbul who were dancing a govend (Kurdish group dance) to Kurdish music, and got into trouble with police because of it. An altercation happened, some pushing and pushing followed and eventually, the Kurds were flat on the ground, handcuffed behind their backs and forced to listen to nationalist Turkish music. Some say there must have been more to it because dancing doesn’t get you in trouble in Turkey – but they don’t know Kurds dance differently. Their dance is a struggle. What a metaphor for the politics we see these days, between the first and second round of the presidential elections.
The story that kept Turkish media in its grip, was not the Kurdish dancers in Istanbul, of course – most Turkish media don’t even report it. What set the agenda, was the decision that Sinan Oğan, the third presidential candidate who received 5% of the votes in the first round, would announce: would he support Erdoğan in the second round, or Kılıçdaroğlu? He set out as an opposition candidate, but expressed his support for Erdoğan, probably just because he thinks Erdoğan is going to win.
You may be surprised that a politician can switch so easily from running against Erdoğan to supporting him, but in Turkey, that’s absolutely no problem. All parties and all politicians eventually dance to the same tune, and have to adjust their steps just slightly to change partners without much interruption.
Oğan has ranted against Erdoğan, he was punched in the face by an AKP MP even, but all is forgiven. Erdoğan’s coalition partner since 2015, Devlet Bahçeli of the MHP, once was fiercely opposed to Erdoğan as well. Akşener is in the opposition coalition now, but she has been an MHP member for long and could just as easily support Erdoğan in the new parliament if it suits her. Akşener’s party, IYI Parti, is a break-away from the MHP. That’s also the original party of Ümit Özdağ, a horrific fascist agitator who had to leave MHP because of all kinds of disputes, joined Akşener’s party and then, after more disputes, founded his own official gang, the Victory Party. This party supported Sinan Oğan in the first round of the elections, a man who is also originally an MHP grey wolf.
You could go on and on. Two parties in the opposition alliance, the ‘table of six’, used to be prominent AKP ministers. One of them, Davutoğlu, would probably still be in the AKP if Erdoğan hadn’t fired him as prime minister in 2015. His party is mostly irrelevant but he’s going to parliament again thanks to the alliance with CHP. Maybe he’ll join AKP again later, everything is possible.
They all basically dance the same dance. They are not people’s parties, but parties who serve the interests of the state. The AKP, actually, comes closest to what you could call a people’s party, although if you see Erdoğan dance these days, he is leading a dance that hardly anybody can follow anymore. He makes the strangest moves but the long line of people behind him loved the smoother dance he was known for in the past and that took them to the centre of the dance floor with him, so they keep following in his footsteps. They don’t see that his moves make them stumble, injure them even, and that his dance doesn’t serve their visibility on the dance floor anymore but only his own solo performance, but they love him, grateful for old times sake.
The others are on the dance floor too, dancing similarly to Erdoğan. Their moves never deviate too much from the prescribed ones. These dancers sometimes try to copy the now old and clumpsy and physically weak lead dancer – he still controls the orchestra and conductor, owns the dance hall, defines the program and the list of invitees. But he’s dancing one of his last dances. Who’s going to take over the lead? It won’t be you if you propose a totally different style.
But look, who forced entry to the dance floor long ago, refuses to leave but does dance differently? That’s the troupe that dances the same dance as the men in Kadıköy this weekend. That’s not a dance centering around leading soloists who choose a slightly different dance partner every now and then because all dances are mostly interchangeable anyway, they are doing a genuine, real group dance. When you want to join, you join. Nobody leads, although the core rules are clear to everybody: we move together as one in all our diversity, and we struggle to make others see how much more this dance has to offer.
Their dance is fundamentally different. It is not meant to adjust to the others and join their steps and moves that leave the people on the sides of the dance floor at best and tramples them to death at worst. It is meant to clear the dance floor of all these outdated moves and partners and start something new, exciting, free, colourful, and very, very 21st century.
The dance poses a danger, the mainstream dancers say, calling it aggressive even. Some dare to dance close to the group for a short time before they are pulled back again to the century old steps. But at some point, some fatigued dancers won’t be able to resist. They have watched, listened to the music, seen the unity, felt the energy, admired the stamina.
They’ll join. And the old choreography will look so bad, so utterly illogical, so unsuitable, and the new one so simple yet beautiful and natural, that eventually, nobody will understand anymore why they all danced along without ever looking in the huge mirrors in which they could have seen themselves all along.
- Fréderike Geerdink is an independent journalist. Follow her on Twitter or subscribe to her acclaimed weekly newsletter Expert Kurdistan.