Bags of coal and crates of bread

Coal. These days it’s mainly coal that municipalities hand out to the poor, who don’t have a gas connection and cannot afford to use an electric heater, and who also find coal too expensive. Luckily there is the AKP holding some stock – it’s mainly AKP municipalities where the poor receive these gifts. Prime Minister Erdogan tries his best to justify the gifts as ‘taking care of the poor in society’ and as ‘part of the generosity of Turkish culture’, but he is just not convincing. Critics come from all levels of society. Of course there is the criticism that the authorities are not there to give presents to the people, but to develop policies that help them support themselves. And whenever the authorities decide to give things away, this should be based on policy too, on rules and rights and not on ‘charity’. Nor are religious and cultural experts charmed by this urge to give something away. In Islam, they say, people give each other food, for example, and they do it without taking credit for it – I recognise that from the Feast of Sacrifice, where meat is not handed out with grand gestures but is more likely to be hung on a door, silently. The receivers should never be given the idea that they are lower than anybody else, or that they owe anything to the giver. The AKP breaks all these rules. But the bags of coal and the crates of bread will win them some votes in the upcoming local elections.

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