Turkey’s first lady, Emine Erdoğan, who in recent years came under fire for carrying a $50,000 handbag, suggested ways to avoid wasting food at a public event in the wake of the austerity measures introduced by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, attracting criticism and ridicule on social media.
The first lady on Wednesday spoke at an event celebrating the first anniversary of the “Preserve Your Food, Protect Your Table” campaign, a project started with the cooperation of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to raise public awareness about food waste.
In her speech Erdoğan advised preparing a grocery list before going shopping, reducing food portions and eating fruits and vegetables in season to prevent food waste. “Let’s stop storing food that we know will spoil and buy only as much as we actually need,” she said.
Underlining that she has been to a majority of African countries, the first lady said: “In one part of the world, children are in need of a bite of bread and a glass of clean water. In another place, tons of food goes to waste because people take only one bite and leave the rest of their meal.”
“We can save humanity from this shame by changing our behaviors individually, through mobilization on a global scale,” she added.
Referring to the first lady’s advice on reducing portions, a social media user said: “How about first you tell your husband to reduce [the number of vehicles in] his convoy?”
Erdoğan’s large security detail, traveling with him in a convoy of more than 10 vehicles, has drawn criticism for extravagance due to the use of a number of luxurious official cars.
“Emine Erdoğan, if you reduce your portions of the meals cooked in the palace, the people [in Turkey] would be healthily fed,” another Twitter user said.
“Emine Erdoğan, who carries a $50,000 handbag … and has private fashion designers, gives advice [on austerity]. You feel no shame, do you?” another user tweeted.
Photos of the first lady carrying a $50,000 handbag were first published in June 2019, when Turkish journalist Ender İmrek had appeared in court accused of insulting the president’s wife in a column titled “The Hermès purse was shining bright,” in which he said carrying the bag was “an insult to our people as they suffer from hunger and poverty.”
Erdoğan’s French handbag was thrust into the spotlight again in October, when the president called on Turkish citizens to boycott products from France after President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech that Islam was a religion in crisis all over the world.
Turkish social media users posted thousands of tweets criticizing the Erdoğan family for their use of French-made goods following the boycott call, especially the first lady’s handbag, which Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), urged Emine Erdoğan to burn and join the boycott.
The first lady’s advice on preventing food waste comes in the wake of the austerity measures introduced by President Erdoğan for state institutions and organizations, including a ban on the purchase of newspapers and a plan to reduce the number of official vehicles by 20 percent by the end of 2023.
The president attracted criticism from opposition politicians for keeping the presidency, which according to local reports spends TL 10 million ($1,148,264) daily, exempt from the latest austerity measures.