On Sept. 26, a day after the Kurdish referendum, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave a harsh speech criticizing Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Erdogan questioned what Barzani possibly could be expecting of this referendum given the fact that he cannot pay his own bureaucrats’ salaries and had to borrow $1.5 million from Turkey. Erdogan was disappointed that Barzani did not even bother to consult with him about this referendum. Erdogan said, “Up until the last minute, we did not expect Barzani to make such a decision [to hold the referendum], but we were wrong. In a time when our relations were at its best, we consider this decision [to be] treachery against our country.” Erdogan also emphasized his doubts about the voter turnout and legitimacy of the results of the referendum, while repeatedly highlighting Israeli meddling for an independent Kurdistan. Erdogan warned attempts at Kurdish independence would harm both Turkish-Israeli and Turkish-KRG relations. Still, he did not utter a word about other Arab countries’ support toward the KRG.
From his long speech, one sentence particularly struck a chord in Turkish social media. #YineKandirilmislarYetisin (Help, they have been fooled again) started trending immediately with hundreds of satirical comments. The confession of being deceived is a tool Erdogan frequently uses whenever his brotherly relations collapse. He has used similar arguments for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, US President Barack Obama, the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the Fethullah Gulen movement, to name just a few. However, this time comments not only ridiculed Erdogan, but also were critical and harsh, highlighting the costs of Erdogan’s wrong decisions and misguided policies for the country. In addition, a few courageous columnists such as Ahmet Nesin of the Arti Gercek news portal turned the tables on Erdogan’s argument, stating that the list of “those who were deceived by Erdogan” is rather long.