For over two decades, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slowly grown his power over the nation of Turkey. Moving up the political ladder from a role as mayor of Istanbul to his current (and re-imagined) position as president, Erdoğan has championed the values of the largely Islamic nation … and, some suspect, slowly siphoned the country’s electoral and religious freedom, as well.
But, just how much of a steaming turd is Turkish President Erdoğan? Let’s find out!
Erdoğan Has No Qualms Changing the Laws to Suit His Needs
As you might expect, Turkey’s constitution has rules in place to prevent former inmates from serving in higher office. Fun fact: the United States totally doesn’t have those same laws. At any rate, when Erdoğan was elected prime minister in ’02, he was technically ineligible to serve. Thankfully, he had friends in office who quickly changed the law to ensure that the prime minister’s criminal past was a non-issue.
It’s always a great sign when the incoming party’s first order of business is changing the laws to suit their needs.
Then, a little over a decade later, in 2014, term limits should have sent Erdoğan into early retirement. Rather than do the world a favor, however, Erdoğan just transitioned into the role of the president before introducing new legislation that would — surprise! — expand the duties and powers of the president. Of course, those plans were put on hold in 2016 thanks to a teensy weensy military coup. Early in 2017, however, Erdoğan got his way.
About that Military Coup
In July of 2017, a bunch of low-level Turkish military officials (armed with some tanks and fighter jets) launched the bloodiest coup attempt in Turkey’s history. Though the original source of the coup was never confirmed. Erdoğan blamed the coup on political ally-turned-rival Fethullah Gulen. To say the two have a controversial history is … an understatement.
Gulen has repeatedly denied the accusations, instead suggesting that Erdoğan fanned the flames of the rebellion to secure his control of the government. Whether or not that’s true remains to be seen; Erdoğan never responded to the allegations. He was too busy arresting as many as 50,000 supposed Gulen supporters, shutting down Gulen-friendly media outlets, and, best of all, changing the law so that the Turkish president had the exclusive right to appoint university rectors.
The only reason the coup failed was through the combined strength of the Turkish people. When the violence kicked off, Erdoğan critics and supporters flooded the streets to impede the soldiers’ movement. They insisted their country be changed (or not) through democracy.
He Served Four Months in Jail for ‘Inciting Hatred’
In 1998 as the Mayor of Istanbul, Erdoğan was put in jail for inciting religious hatred when he read an Islamic poem which read, in part, “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.”
That bit of language got him a ten-month jail term — he served four months before immediately re-entering politics.
His Government Loves Putting People on Trial for Making Fun of Him
In May of 2016, model and former Miss Turkey, Merve Buyuksarac, shared a post on her Instagram account that featured a poem which “used verses from the Turkish national anthem to criticise Mr. Erdoğan.” That scant bit of social media tomfoolery got the pageant winner briefly detained, then indicted for attacking a head of state.
The case isn’t isolated, either. In just the last four years, courts in Istanbul have launched more than 2,000 defamation cases against outspoken critics of the government.
Don’t worry about Merve Buyuksarac, by the way. She’s pretty, so her sentence was suspended.
Can you imagine the number of people who would end up executed if that kind of law was in effect in the United States? The entire cast of The Daily Show would get obliterated.
He’s Totally Tanking the Economy
For several years, Turkey looked like a surefire investment. The country is plopped on some of the most gorgeous terrain on Earth, the cuisine is unique (and delicious), and there’s something to do for tourists who either want to lounge on a beach or hit a historical site. Then, Erdoğan happened.
The Turkish president’s increasingly isolationist stance has alienated investors and slowed down tourism. Erdoğan’s vice-like (and rather dim-witted) grip on the economy hasn’t helped matters. But, pissing off the bloated orangutan in charge of the United States seems to have tipped the scales toward economic doom. A tiff with the Trumpinator depressed the value of Turkish lira, which subsequently aroused fears of a financial crash.
He Blames the Country’s Problems on iPhones
In the wake of the economic crisis, Turkey’s ministry of the interior began blaming the problem not on horrible economic policy, but on Twitter. Specifically, on dozens of accounts the government claims posted mean statements about the Turkish lira.
The government also blamed the problems on the electronics used to post those statements, saying Turkey would enact a ban on all US-imported electronics in the near future.
That’s fine, we don’t need Turkey to make kickass .gifs of kittens.
Brewing Dictatorship in Turkey
It would be unfair to go the whole way here without mentioning that a solid fifty percent of Turkey supports Erdoğan and his dictatorial tendencies. Much like the nearly half of the United States that’s down with a former reality star and failed businessman holding court in the White House, a vast swath of Turkish citizens are totally cool with Erdoğan cracking down on freedom.
The remaining portion of the Turkish people, however, find themselves at odds with Erdoğan’s rampant censorship, abuse of the constitution, and growing hunger for broad powers.
For some reason.