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10 Disturbing Facts About President Erdogan Of Turkey

by Gregory Myers
fact checked by Jamie Frater

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not well-known outside of Turkey yet. But he is becoming notorious for his violent and radical actions as leader as well as for his increasingly bellicose nature on the world stage.

SEE ALSO: 10 Reasons The Syrian War Is Even Worse Than You Imagined

He speaks loudly, acts brutally, and has done everything he can to turn Turkey, a place that had recently been quite democratic, into a dictatorship with him at the helm. As his ill star rises, the whole world is beginning to learn much more about the man who has been described by some of his own people as the Hitler of our generation.

Featured image credit: The Guardian

10 He May Have Been Responsible For Chemical Warfare Against The Kurds

Photo credit: The Telegraph

Not long ago, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad came under fire for allegedly using chemical weapons against his own people. The international community went into an uproar about the very possibility, and it was this suspicion that was used as justification for the United States to start heavily arming and helping some of the rebels.

Although it has never been proven that Assad used chemical weapons against his people, many are still convinced of his guilt. Unfortunately, he is not the only Middle Eastern leader to have recently come under suspicion for such a heinous form of warfare.

President Erdogan of Turkey has long been fighting the Kurds on every front possible. Although he has tried to negotiate with them somewhat in the past, he mostly labels them all as terrorists. He arrests them and pretends to befriend them while doing the best he can to permanently remove their rights and any real power they have.

Some Kurds have been trying to establish safe havens in countries like Syria and Iraq for years, but Erdogan is having none of it. He has long pushed back against the Kurds’ attempts to build any kind of stronghold. In 2011, Erdogan was suspected of using chemical weapons in an attack on a Kurdish village. Of course, he denied it.[1]

9 His Goons Have Attacked Americans On US Soil Multiple Times

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Erdogan’s relationship with the West is a rather strange one. On the one hand, he has a lot of strategic alliances with Western countries. On the other hand, he doesn’t like how the West constantly bothers him about human rights, democracy, and refraining from genocide against the Kurds.

He visited Washington, DC, on a couple of occasions to talk to US President Donald Trump. They seemed to be getting along well at first. However, on both occasions, Erdogan ordered his goons to attack peaceful protesters outside his venues on US soil.

Several of these Turkish nationals have been charged in US courts with assault. Of course, Erdogan responded with an angry denunciation of the entire US court system. Although the White House has not spoken out about the actions of Erdogan’s security detail, perhaps for diplomatic reasons, the reaction of our court system could not make it any clearer as to how the US feels about that kind of behavior.[2]

Erdogan should also be careful with how he handles himself. Lately, he has been speaking in ways that make him an enemy of all his Western allies. If he keeps isolating himself from his strategic partners, he may find himself completely alone before too long.

8 He Wants To Forcibly Extract A Political Opponent Hiding In The US

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Erdogan is known for doing whatever it takes to silence the opposition. In his eyes, anyone who doesn’t entirely agree with him is the opposition by default. He is known for suspending people’s passports to force them back to Turkey for punishment or even threatening their families in Turkey to get them to return.

Often, this occurs simply because they said something that was critical of their leader. Anyone with a legitimate political following who could democratically unseat Erdogan is seen as the most vicious enemy possible and must be destroyed at all costs.

Erdogan’s worst nightmare is a man named Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who is living in his own little compound in Pennsylvania. Gulen is hiding out from the budding dictator and mostly keeping to himself in his frail old age.

Despite living in the United States, Gulen has a lot of influence in Turkey. As a result, Erdogan has been trying to get Gulen extradited for years.

Erdogan has been unsuccessful because the United States will not extradite without a valid criminal reason, which the Turkish government has thus far been unable to provide. Erdogan tried again after the 2016 attempted coup by blaming Gulen for it. The Turkish president strove to get Gulen extradited on those grounds, but the US government refused his request.[3]

7 He Just Helped The Syrian Rebels Seize An Area Because He Really Hates The Kurds

Photo credit: The Independent

The Turkish government run by Erdogan is also causing a lot of trouble in Syria. There, he is helping rebels, some of whom are as bad as ISIS or who splintered off from ISIS at some point. Erdogan has a specific objective in mind. He simply hates the Kurdish people and wants them eliminated at all costs. Any Kurdish cities, whether established or in the process of being set up, are seen as a threat to his desire to destroy all Kurds. So they must be stopped.

His efforts recently led to the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army—a despicable and brutal rebel group—seizing Afrin, a city that was populated almost entirely by Kurdish people. During the taking of the city, Turkish artillery reportedly targeted Kurdish civilians as they fled from the violence and into the hills.[4]

Erdogan acted as though a great victory against evil had been achieved. He has started to refer to every Kurd as a terrorist or someone affiliated with terrorists in an effort to dehumanize them—all while backing groups that are as bad as ISIS or were previously affiliated with ISIS.

Erdogan is supposed to be a Western ally. Yet he is fighting against Western-backed Kurdish groups and is willing to burn diplomacy to the ground to enact his hateful and destructive agenda.

6 Erdogan May Have Staged The Coup To Cement His Own Power

Photo credit: The Guardian

In July 2016, there was an attempted coup in Turkey. Tanks rolled through the streets, and over 200 people were dead before the ordeal ended. At least on the surface, the coup came close to actually unseating Erdogan’s government and potentially capturing or killing him.

Erdogan blamed the coup on Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in the United States since the 1990s, and claimed that factions of the military loyal to Gulen had worked with him to take over the country. After hearing immediate calls for his extradition, Gulen spoke to the US media and said he believed the coup may have been staged by Erdogan. The Turkish president’s alleged motive was to bolster his power and make it easier to punish political rivals like Gulen.

This accusation may never be proven satisfactorily one way or the other. However, Gulen said that past coups have been better planned and better executed, which led him to believe that the 2016 event was only meant to look like a coup and was not supposed to succeed.[5]

Whether the coup was real or not, those who thought Erdogan would use it as a chance to crack down hard on political enemies and any dissidents had their worst fears confirmed quickly.

5 He Could Potentially Gain Access To Nuclear Weapons

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When the attempted coup went down in 2016, people were legitimately concerned about a nuclear stockpile potentially ending up in the hands of either a violent dictator like Erdogan or an unstable new government put in place after the coup. The reason for this fear was the Incirlik Air Base that is located in southern Turkey.

Although it is a Turkish air base, it is also used by the US Air Force, the Royal Air Force, and others. Incirlik is mostly used as a staging post to conduct raids on ISIS in Iraq and Syria. But it still houses NATO’s nuclear stockpile of approximately 50 B-61 hydrogen bombs, which could do a considerable amount of damage.

During the coup, the base went into lockdown. This left a lot of people wondering about NATO’s strategy to stop a potentially hostile or unstable power from getting their hands on nuclear weapons in this type of situation. Also, could NATO implement a process that safely destroyed the capability of these nuclear weapons before the base was overrun?[6]

Although things did stabilize after the coup, some people are still worried that no such strategy can ever be secure enough. With the situation rapidly worsening, these people believe that NATO should remove all nuclear weapons from the region to ensure that no one like Erdogan can get them.

4 He Has Brutally Cracked Down On Kurdish People Living In Turkey

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Erdogan claims that he dislikes only Kurdish terrorists and denies that he wants to arrest, destroy, or banish all Kurds in his country. But his own actions constantly reveal his sinister motives.

After the coup attempt, he repeatedly claimed in public that the man responsible was Fethullah Gulen, the Islamic cleric hiding in the United States. However, shortly after the coup attempt, Erdogan used his emergency powers to crack down hard on Kurds living in Turkey and arrest scores of people.

Some Kurdish politicians believe that a slow-moving coup by Erdogan is being enacted upon them. In 2015, a year before the coup attempt, a party of Kurdish people in Turkey won enough seats to become a true political threat. Erdogan’s party could not even secure enough seats to run the government on their own without a runoff election.

Since the coup attempt, almost 3,000 Kurdish politicians have been arrested and the mayors of nearly every major Kurdish town in Turkey have been put in jail.[7] Erdogan would have you believe that all these people were involved in the coup. Not only is it unlikely that these thousands of people were involved, but it’s even more improbable that they would work with Gulen—a man who is no friend of the Kurdish people.

3 A Delusional Erdogan Has Threatened The US While Comparing Himself To The Ottomans

Erdogan may be a wannabe dictator, but he is also somewhat delusional. He doesn’t understand that he lacks the military and economic power to sustain a long-term war against the West.

His hatred of the Kurds has affected his judgment so much that he is picking fights with an ally like the US that could easily become a dangerous enemy. After seizing the Kurdish city of Afrin, a move that did not sit well with the United States, Erdogan and his Syrian rebel allies set their sights on the Kurdish city of Manbij in early 2018.[8]

However, things could get ugly really fast this time. The US uses Manbij to train Kurdish and Arab fighters. Even if America lost it temporarily, it’s likely that they would take it back almost instantly with a huge military force.

If Turkey throws their weight into attacking Manbij, they could risk open war with a power that is far greater from an economic and military standpoint. Meanwhile, Turkey’s military is spread thin with multiple ambitious operations in the Middle East and increasing military operations at home to crack down on dissidents.

Erdogan has threatened the United States with an “Ottoman slap” if they do not abandon one of their key strongholds, something the United States is obviously not going to do. Considering that Turkey has nowhere near the power of the Ottoman Empire, Erdogan is only embarrassing himself. He will either look ridiculous for not backing up his words with action or stupid for trying to smack down the superior military force of the United States.

2 President Erdogan Has Been Cracking Down On Free Speech, Protests, And The Media

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Erdogan has used the 2016 coup attempt to cement his authoritarian rule as much as possible, and he is succeeding at a breakneck pace. First, he got the parliament to give him emergency powers to essentially rule by dictate. (The Turkish parliament is made up almost entirely of politicians from Erdogan’s party, which he rigidly controls.)

After that, he conducted massive arrests under the guise of taking down people who were involved in the coup. He has also shut down over 130 media organizations. In the early days, he arrested close to 100 journalists. Many have deemed it a witch hunt as no coup attempt seems to justify shutting down nearly all media outlets that don’t entirely agree with the ruling party (or arresting journalists who fall into the same category).[9]

Since the coup, Erdogan has also booted scores of teachers from their positions, fired tens of thousands of civil servants, and arrested well over 100,000 people in total. Some have been waiting for many months to even have a specific charge leveled against them, so there is little expectation of fair or speedy trials.

Democracy is disappearing fast in Turkey, and Erdogan is muscling his way through with pure force in a way that no one in Turkey may be able to stop right now. Even protesting peacefully is forbidden if you don’t want to get caught up in Erdogan’s sweeps. The emergency powers that allow him to rule this way will likely be extended indefinitely.

1 He May Be On A Course To Remain President And Dictator For Life

Photo credit: The Guardian

Although Turkey was a country that used to work with multiple political parties and term limits, Erdogan has been doing everything he can to become a dictator. As his party has become stronger, they have sometimes chanted a slogan that translates to “one party” or “one-man rule.”[10]

Those who are loyal to Erdogan believe that only his political party should be allowed to exist. He appoints the members of his party and, as president, chooses all judges and ministers, so he has complete control over Turkey with no check on his power. Death is the only thing that can unseat him.

In 2017, a referendum passed in Turkey that allows Erdogan to continue in office until 2029 as long as he keeps winning elections. That’s easy when you have a stranglehold on the entire political system and don’t allow other parties to properly run.

The referendum also gave the president much more power on a permanent basis (rather than an emergency one). Those who voted against the referendum feared what it would do to Turkey. Even if Erdogan was gone, the country’s laws would be shaped to make the current leader into a mostly unchecked dictator. Undoing this would take a lot of political effort in the future.

With most of his internal enemies gone and any uprisings currently quashed, Erdogan is well on his way to becoming ruler of Turkey for life.

fact checked by Jamie Frater