The Crash of the Turkish Lira or ‪How a Great Country Got Fooled into Making Itself Not Great

The Turkish Lira has been in trouble for a long time – but people chose to ignore it. I lived in Turkey and have many friends in Turkey. This crash affects them and their loved ones in terrible ways. Prior to today,  the devastation wrought by ISIS, the Syrian refugee crisis, and war in neigboring Iraq had already destroyed many of my friend’s businesses. The foreigners (farangi) simply closed shop and moved back to their countries – as my wife and I did in 2010. For those who are not foreigners – the past eight years have been brutal. What they haven’t been is a surprise.

When I lived in Turkey in 2010, 2011, and in parts of 2012 – it was a paradise. I’m not exaggerating. The Turkish economic miracle was in full force. The hard work of Ataturk and those who followed him was paying off – Turkey was a secular country with a semi-socialized system of taking care of those unable to take care of themselves and state control of key industries. In 2011, then Prime Minister (now President) Erdogan was already in the process of privatizing all of the Turkish national industries and selling them to his friends who in turn sold them to the highest bidders. All of that money went to building his AKP party, buying elections, and further robbing the Turkish people of their government, thier history, and their legacy.

Turkey had already suffered a massive currency meltdown and strict controls were put in place to prevent another one from happening. Gradually, Erdogan eased those controls to allow for out of control government borrowing and spending. He used the people’s resources to build monuments to himself, reshape the governmental structure (like making the honorary and mostly powerless presidential position into the most powerful position in Turkey just when his maximum time as Prime Minister came). He began erasing the proud and important legacy of Kemal Ataturk – cutting down forests he had planted, removing his pictures from official buildings, and renaming parks and other Ataturk public spaces.

None of this was hidden. It was happening in plain site. The religious and uneducated both rallied around him. He clothed himself in Islam and pulled back Turkey’s secular shroud. The uneducated saw him as a rich man who could make them rich – and he played to their hatred by restarting the conflicts with the Kurdish minorities. The rich liked the relaxed taxes, the easing of regulations, and the anything goes capitalism that made them wealthier and wealthier. That was his base – the religious, the uneducated, the bigoted, and the wealthy.

He used the coup attempt a few years ago to shut down the majority of his opposition – college educated professionals, journalists, activists, and anyone else who oppossed him. Tens of thousands were fired, jailed, killed or blacklisted.

And the plundering continued. Until now, when the piper has come for payment. Now, today, he asked for all Turks to turn in gold, silver, Euros, dollars and other foreign currency for Turkish Lira – and I want to make this clear – those that do – are giving away their only hope of surviving. The Turkish Lira is totally destroyed and if it somehow survives, it will be a miracle. As for Erdogan, we can hope his days as President are also numbered.

Now, if you’re American and a lot of this sounds familar – I’m glad you were paying attention. I hope you were paying attention.