“Turkish Leader Cancels My Honorary Citizenship Over Criticism”
GAZIANTEP, Turkey — This was to be an extraordinary week in my career and life. It has turned out to be just that — but hardly in the way I expected.
I arrived here Tuesday morning to receive a great honor. The mayor and city council decided several months ago to make me an honorary citizen in recognition of reporting I did years ago that resulted in saving exquisite Roman mosaics about to be lost to flooding.
A lavish ceremony was planned. Tickets were printed. A professional interpreter was engaged so I would not have to expose my fractured Turkish.
Upon my arrival, however, my acutely embarrassed hosts sat me down and told me the ceremony, and my honorary citizenship, had been canceled by personal order of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Gaziantep’s mayor was given the order while attending a United Nations conference in Paris. Later, according to one of my friends here, Erdogan’s office sent her a fax describing me as “an enemy of our government and our country.” Attached as evidence was a Jan. 4 column I wrote for the Boston Globe that included a critical paragraph about Erdogan.
It said, “Once seen as a skilled modernizer, he now sits in a 1,000-room palace denouncing the European Union, decreeing the arrest of journalists, and ranting against short skirts and birth control.”
In many countries, a head of state would not even acknowledge a few unflattering sentences published ın a newspaper thousands of miles away, or might shrug them off with no more concern than an elephant shows for a mosquito. Erdogan, however, takes an intense interest in what the press writes about him. Many of the country’s independent journalists have been forced from their jobs. Those who remain are expected to toe his party line.