recep tayyip erdogan 3

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, III



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When President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s critics and supporters call him “Sultan”, it’s not just a nickname.

New constitutional reforms kicked in with Erdogan’s recent election, setting him up for one-man rule.

The power-grab comes as an ongoing purge has left thousands of his opponents in jail and an increasingly aggressive foreign policy position has tested traditional alliances.

Now many are wondering just how Erdogan’s new term will play out.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey: “The winner of this election is . . . democracy, the national will and our nation itself.”

Erdogan wasn’t always so polarizing: when he took over as Istanbul mayor in 1994, some worried that his roots in political Islam would dictate how he served as mayor, but he mostly avoided imposing religion on public life that is except for an alcohol ban in city-owned cafes.

Erdogan served a stint in prison and was temporarily banned from politics for reading out a poem believed to be pro-militant Islam at a rally.

But he returned with a vengeance, riding a wave of popular discontent with the country’s military and secular elites. He promised modernization and delivered with massive infrastructure projects.

As a result, Turkey was praised by the West and once seen as a beacon of democracy and a model for economic growth.

Erdogan shored up a largely forgotten base in Turkey: the rural and religious conservatives, thanks to an economic boom that pulled millions of Turks out of poverty.

The son of a ferry boat captain, his humble beginnings and religious pride only boosted his populist appeal at home and in the Muslim world.

So how did Erdogan go from being a highly regarded moderate to a controversial autocrat?

Once in power, he gradually embraced religion in policy and education, a direct affront to Turkey’s secular foundation.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey: “May god help us. May god help us.”

He pushed to restrict access to abortion and aggressively ramped up the construction of Islamic schools, some of which are replacing public schools. This angers secularists who along with anyone who opposes Erdogan have little recourse.

In 2013, violent police crackdowns on peaceful protesters in Istanbul’s Gezi Park, sent the message that dissent would not be tolerated. Insulting the president could mean spending up to four years behind bars.

In 2016, Erdogan’s presidency nearly came to a head in what was the bloodiest coup attempt in Turkey’s political history.

But the coup failed as civilians took to the streets to stop the military. Instead of weakening Erdogan, the coup ushered in a new stage of his autocratic rule.

What followed was a massive purge of his political opposition: more than a hundred thousand people, including academics, judges and journalists have been detained in connection with the failed coup.

Erdogan has even pressured foreign governments to arrest individuals allegedly linked to the coup.

The crackdown has also extended to Turkish media. Erdogan’s jailing of journalists and sweeping control of traditional media companies have largely shut out independent voices, including opposition candidates in the recent elections.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey: “If there is any party that can compete with us, to continue this fight, let them come forward.”

Reporters Without Borders estimates that about 90% of Turkey’s newspaper coverage is pro-government.

Erdogan’s intolerance for dissent has even reached other countries like in 2017, when his bodyguards assaulted protesters in Washington DC, twice, -s he looked on.

His growing power hasn’t just come from a purge of opponents, however; he’s also changed the constitution to strengthen his authority. A 2017 referendum made the president’s rule an executive post, not a symbolic one.

It also increased term limits, got rid of the prime minster role, and expanded budgetary and emergency powers.

Erdogan argued these changes were necessary to counter terror threats from Kurdish separatists and extremists. But secular Turks and leaders of the EU weren’t convinced, and condemned the moves as anti-democratic and unfair.

So he pushed right back.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey: “This Europe, like before World War Two, is a racist, fascist, cruel Europe. This Europe is the anti-Islam and anti-Turkish Europe of the Middle Ages.”

Erdogan’s anti-European outbursts have become increasingly common in recent years. But it’s the steady decline in the rule of law and freedom of expressions that most hurt Turkey’s long-term ambitions of joining the EU.

Yet the EU still relies on Turkey’s partnership to manage the urgent refugee and migrant crisis.

Despite mounting international criticism, Erdogan enjoys popular support, nabbing over 50% of votes in recent elections. Part of that loyalty comes from the father figure image he’s cultivated over the years, gaining respect as a powerful advocate for the Muslim world.

Aiming to inspire a new nationalism, he’s rallied Turkish citizens of all ages.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey: “God bless her. A Turkish flag in her pocket. If she’s martyred, God willing, this flag will be draped over her.

She’s ready for anything.”

One way Erdogan has tried to promote nationalism is by stirring up nostalgia for the Ottoman Empire’s glory days. Recent years have seen a surge in Ottoman period dramas, some of which are funded by state television and praised by Erdgogan.

Although he’s tried to unify citizens under the banner of a common identity and economic progress, not all Turks have been able to stomach his authoritarianism, a strong opposition challenge in the recent elections show that Turks are divided.

Even so, Erdogan’s new powers give him more free reign than ever.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey: “We will never stop! We will never stop! We will never stop!”


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1. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s nickname is “Sultan”. True or false? Why do they call him that? Who calls him that? Is this a compliment, insult, neither or both?

2. Did Erdogan came from a rich, influential family? Was he always successful and powerful?

3. What was Erdogan like in the beginning of his term as prime minister? What happened to the economy?

4. He has changed since he took office (became the prime minister). Is this right or wrong?

5. Were there defining moments during his leadership? What had happened? What happened afterwards?

6. Erdogan’s powers have remained the same. Is this correct or incorrect? Why did it increase?

7. Is he nationalistic? Give examples. Do all Turks support him?

8. Has relations with the West improve, worsened or stayed the same?


A. Is Recep Tayyip Erdogan frequently, often, sometimes, rarely or never mentioned in your country’s media?

B. There is much trade and partnership between my country and Turkey. Yes or no?

C. What does the media, government, economists think of Erdogan?

D. What will happen to Turkey (in the future)?

E. Should the West and international community do anything? What should ordinary Turks do?

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