Almost 2,000 copies of a special edition book, titled Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, were sold for 2,500 Turkish Lira ($473) each within four hours of being released on January 23.
The book, written by Sözcü columnist Yılmaz Özdil, a hardliner secular Kemalist, tells the story of the founding father of the modern Republic of Turkey. Only 1,881 copies were printed, which marked the year of Atatürk’s birth – 1881, and all the books were snapped up within hours.
The intense interest in the book caused the website of Kırmızı Kedi Publishing House (www.kirmizikedi.com) to crash. This happened around the same time that pro-government journalists initiated a smear campaign against the book and its author, Özdil.
People flock to buy the special edition book with an astronomical price tag
People who flocked to the internet site to buy the book were disappointed when they battled to enter the official site of Kirmızı Kedi Publishing House. Reportedly, 4 million 702 thousand Turkish Lira revenue was collected within a few hours from the sales of the special edition book.
The book was also listed on the ‘Gitti Gidiyor’ website, which is one of the biggest online shopping sites in Turkey, for the price of 25,000 Turkish Lira ($4,716). It could also be found on many other online shopping sites for the price of 25,000 TL; tenfold more than the original price of the special edition.
The original edition of the book was put on sale a few months ago and also attracted considerable interest among Kemalists and people who have different political views.
The significant interest in the special edition book triggered a hot debate among the different social and political layers of Turkey.
Increasing sales angers pro-AKP journalists
As Özdil’s book embraced success, Sabah Daily Newspaper, which is known as an AKP and Erdoğan loyalist, started to attack Özdil and other secular writers, journalist and dignitaries with insults, accusing them of being exploiters of Atatürk.
Damla Kaya, a journalist from Sabah, alleged that secular hardliners are trading over Atatürk in their columns, documentaries, television programs, conferences and, especially, their books. In his criticisms, the Sabah journalist intentionally referred to the recent book of Yılmaz Özdil.
Kekeç likened Özdil to swindler known as Chubby (Tosuncuk)
The Atatürk book has been criticized among Turkish intellectuals and writers, one of them being Ahmet Kekeç, a columnist for the Star Daily Newspaper. He harshly criticized Özdil, accusing him of being fetishist and alleging that people who buy this book are trying to set a mystic relationship with Atatürk. Kekeç also accused Özdil of religionising Atatürk.
He also likened Yılmaz Özdil to Mehmet Aydın, a young swindler known as “Chubby “(Tosuncuk as Turkish) of CEO Çiftlik Bank (Farm Bank), who swindled millions of Turkish Liras from the Turkish people who invested to Aydın’s virtual farm.
“Özdil wants to establish Atatürkist religion through his book”
Like Star Daily Columnist Kekeç, many Turkish intellectuals from different worldviews criticised the book for being so expensive, while Islamists accused Özdil of constituting a Kemalist religion through the opinions written in the book.
Pro-AKP Sabah criticized Özdil and Kemalist journalist for being exploiters of Atatürk.
Can Dündar, Yılmaz Özdil, Uğur Dündar and Emin Çölaşan, all known for their secularist views and for being hardliner Kemalists, have been accused of turning their Atatürk related books into an income.
In his news story, journalist Damla Kaya pointed out that some Sözcü journalists published around 20 books relating to Atatürk. He mentioned the names of the secularist hardliners and pro-Kemalist journalists, writers and dignitaries in his story.
Harshly criticizing Yılmaz Özdil as an exploiter of Atatürk, Kaya claimed that Özdil was among the first who exploited Atatürk. “Özdil is known for his article titled ‘Bidon Kafa’ (meaning narrow minded or empty head).” Contending that the book lacks sufficient information, Kaya pointed out that the book of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was first priced at 35 TL and, once being exploited as a special edition, the price increased to 2500 TL.
He also accused Emin Çölaşan, Sinan Meydan and former Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Tuncay Özkan, who also wrote a book about Atatürk with the title ‘Atatürk in the 21st Century’, for being exploiters of Atatürk with their books relating to the founder of modern Turkey.
Journalist Kaya also criticised actors Akpınar and Gezen as Atatürk exploiters
Describing another secular hardliner, Müjdat Gezen, as an exploiter of Atütürk, the Sabah journalist Kaya expressed that Gezen turned his insulting speech about Erdoğan on Halk TV into an income. Gezen published a book a week after the speech on Halk TV titled, ‘Know Your Place’, which is ‘Haddini Bil’ in Turkish.
Turkey’s famed comedy actor, Metin Akpınar, has also become a target of Erdoğan and pro-government journalists. Criminal complaints have been filed against both Gezen and Akpınar following the speech on Halk TV. An investigation has been launched against a popular comedian who is accused of promoting rebellion against the Turkish government.
On the TV program broadcast on Halk TV, Akpınar said, “If we do not abide by the rules of democracy, as what happens in all forms of fascism, the leader might be hung from his feet, or maybe poisoned in the cellars, or end up the same way as other leaders did in the past.”
He had also carried on saying: “Whoever got closer to Russia while in office was overthrown one way or the other. Adnan Menderes (Prime Minister 1950-1960, executed by the military regime in 1961) arranged an appointment with Russia and soon after a coup d’état overthrew him. Suleyman Demirel (Prime Minister, removed from office by 1980 military coup) also got closer to Russia and a coup d’état overthrew him as well. Let’s see who is next.”
Özdil’s book goes on the black market, and is sold for 1 million TL ($190.000) says Sabah journalist
A Sabah journalist also alleged that the special edition of the Mustafa Kemal Atatürk book was on the black market selling at prices ranging between 5000 TL and 1 million TL.
Other pro-AKP magazines and AKP loyalists targeted Özdil by accusing him as an Atatürk exploiter.
Many other pro-government magazines, daily newspapers, television and social media trolls have initiated a campaign against Özdil by publishing Özdil’s photos in their magazines and furiously attacking him by depicting him in different photos.
Famous pop singer Gökhan Özoğuz asks, “Is this book made of gold?”
Gökhan Özoğuz, a famous Turkish pop singer from the music group known as Athena, which represented Turkey in the Eurovision Song Contest, criticized the price of the special edition book and asked, on Twitter, if the pages were made of gold.
In a Twitter message, Gökhan Özoğuz said that when the first book (original edition of the book) was released, he bought one. He said that he found the publishing of the special edition of the book wrong, but said that despite everything, Kırmızı Kedi Publishing House is still a place he will gladly follow.
In another Twitter message, he said that he would continue to voice his opinion. “I am not a blindfolded supporter of any fraction. Internet trolls became exuberant. It is not so important. Everyone knows who we are and where we stand.”
Famous comedian also takes a stab at the book
In footage prepared by famous comedian Gürgen Öz, he criticised Özdil for being a capitalist because of the excessive price of the book. He pointed out, humorously, that one won’t see such an expensive book in any other country but Turkey. “I love the capitalists. Think about our country’s minimum wage, which is 2000 TL. But a book is being sold for the price of 2500 TL. How can it be so?” Öz said while humorously criticizing the price.
Despite reactions and insults, Özdil takes a firm stance on his position
Despite the hot debates among Turks, Özdil responded to criticism by saying that it is a special collection book, not an electricity bill. In his column, Özdil pointed out that the original edition of the book hit sales records in Turkey. He also said that that the special edition would not be sold again, and that only 1,881 copies were printed.
He referred to the book as ‘prestige’ and explained that it was a limited coffee-table edition of the recent best seller published by Kırmızı Kedi Yayınları.
Giving some examples of other special edition books that sold for exorbitant prices, Sözcü columnist Özdil mentioned a book published about ‘Ferrari’ that sold for the price of 30,000 TL, while a book telling the story of ‘Marylin Monroe’ sold for 6,000 TL.
He also pointed out that despite the smear campaign of counter revolutionists who are insulting him, swearing at him, producing lies, and defaming the book, they can’t stop the sales.