Yesterday, Ms Gülnür Aybet, Mr Erdogan’s senior advisor, was interviewed on BBC TV, by Stephen Sackur, the eminent British journalist.
Inevitably, the questions circled around the obvious paradox that, while, on one hand, Mr Erdogan appeared to be playing the part of Lieutenant Colombo, relentlessly pursuing the culprit of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder; on the other hand, the Turkish record on press freedom and/or human rights, to say the least, did leave something to be desired. Naturally, one might ask, so what’s new?
However, on Monday night, watching Ms Aybet on BBC TV, batting for Mr Erdogan, broke new ground in PR, even by Turkish standards. First, what made the interview quite outlandish was Ms Aybet’s undiluted arrogance and impunity.
When asked about the fact, based on the reports of the World Freedom Index, Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalist, that Turkey was the world champion in the number journalists jailed, Ms Aybet simply brushed aside the standing of any of the aforementioned organisations and claimed they all had got their figures (150 +) wrong. Inevitably, Mr Sackur asked:
“Why don’t you tell us what the real figure is?” Ms Aybet replied, “Zero.”
“You don’t seriously expect me to believe that…” retorted, Mr Sackur. Ms Aybet replied, “Believe what you like…”
The conversation then turned to countless academics losing their jobs, being detained or jailed. The interviewer mentioned, in particular, one of Ms Aybet’s friends penning an open letter to her, arguing, now that she had become an advisor to Mr Erdogan, she had turned her back to the plight of her colleagues in Academia. Referring to the said letter, Ms Aybet replied:
“What a piece of trash…”
Then, asked about Mr Erdogan accusing George Soros of being the architect of the Gezi Park Protests; and his description of Soros as “that Hungarian Jew…”, Ms Aybet replied: “Well, isn’t he Hungarian? Isn’t he Jewish?”
The interview, on BBC TV, continued in this vein for half an hour. So, what is the moral of this story?
If the idea of dispatching Ms Aybet to London to act as His Master’s Voice, presenting him to British public as the Turkish Snow White, next time, Ankara might consider someone who does not quite remind one of Rosa Klebb, in my favourite Bond, “From Russia With Love.”