The Turks have proved once again in stunning fashion that they were born without the PR (public relations) gene. Their latest folly is to charge Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, better known simply as Fergie, with insulting the Turkish state by secretly filming the horrors of mistreatment found in one orphanage.
Apparently Fergie and her daughter disguised themselves, entered the orphanage and secretly filmed some of the workers badly mistreating the children. The incident caused a furore when it occurred almost four years ago. There was much hand wringing in Turkey at the time over the conditions of the orphanage. Then, after its usual three-day coverage in the Turkish press, the subject was dropped into the same deep hole with all the other potentially embarrassing stories.
In a spectacular own-goal the Turkish prosecutors now bring the whole issue roaring back to life with this ridiculous indictment. If they had wanted to draw global attention to the failures of Turkish institutional childcare they could not have found a better way. One ruling party member even went so far as to say that Fergie’s filming was part of a premeditated plot to discredit the Turkish state during critical negotiations with the European Union.
Now I am sure that Fergie has many talents, but premeditating anything is not among them. She has performed the most ludicrous actions only to express shock and embarrassment when the consequences of those actions became apparent. How many times have we seen tabloid photos of Fergie with her ‘shocked, caught-in-the-headlights – again’ expression after a particularly blatant misstep?
Hidden in all this nonsense is any rational discussion of the main issue. Are children in state orphanages being mistreated or not? The fate of the children suddenly seems less important that the alleged slurs to the State. How Orwellian can you get?
I have actually visited a few Turkish orphanages over the years and found that the care varies from superb to miserable. In many cases the staff create a loving atmosphere and treat the children like members of their own family. In other cases the staff act more like guards.
Why can’t Turkish officials take the simple, understandable route of admitting that orphanage conditions are not universally excellent, and that they are working hard to improve all of them? End of story. Don’t they realize that admitting an error and promising to do much better is a far more effective way of preventing lasting damage than a non-credible flat refusal followed by an indictment? Instead they come up with this outlandish charge that can only bring unwanted, critical global attention. Just when Turkey is struggling to assert itself on the global geo-political stage it pulls a stunt like this demonstrating that much of Turkish officialdom is not yet ready for prime time. One has to wonder if anyone is in charge. There is a popular Turkish saying that a Turk has no friends but a Turk. With this kind of official communications policy one can see the self-fulfilling truth of the statement.