Emine Erdogan’s Hermes handbag in focus after French boycott

Turkish social media users have criticised Turkey’s First Lady Emine Erdoğan, after a photograph of her carrying a $50,000 French-made Hermes handbag resurfaced online.

“After Tayyip Erdoğan calls for a boycott of French goods, we expect Emine Sultan to burn her French-made bags in Taksim Square and show her support #EmperorHasNoClothes”, user @Who98408150 said on Twitter.

The call echoed Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who suggested that the First Lady should be the first to boycott France by burning her handbag.

A spokesperson from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) responded to this suggestion by claiming that the call demonstrated “violence against women”.

Back in June 2020, when the photos of the First Lady with the Hermes handbag had first been published, journalist Ender İmrek had appeared in court accused of insulting the President’s wife, “by not attributing nice qualities to her”, according to Duvar.

“This is a crime that doesn’t exist. According to the indictment, not praising Emine Erdoğan is equal to insulting her,” İmrek said in the court hearing.

Some social media users also pointed out that Turkish Airlines was about to take delivery of its first Airbus A350. Airbus is a French company.

A Turkish factchecking platform also pointed out that the winter flu vaccine used in Turkey is made by the French company Sanofi Pasteur.

With the Turkish Lira continuing to depreciate against global currencies, many users pointed out that Turkey’s economic crisis already makes it difficult for people to buy imported French goods.

Journalist Amberin Zaman, writing for Al-Monitor, said that the war of words was a distraction from Turkey’s real problems, which are economic.

Meanwhile, President Erdoğan responded to the call from opposition leader Kılıçdaroğlu for the First Lady to burn her Hermes handbag, saying,

“If you have a tiny bit of heart, talk about me. Don't talk about my wife. What kind of politician are you? If you're looking for a bag to burn, there are many White Turks with you.”

‘White Turk’ is an expression used to denote richer, more European facing Turkish people, as opposed to the ‘black Turks’ of Anatolia, who tend to be poorer, more working class, and more religious.