28 February 2017

Time: “Person of the Year Runner Up: Recep Tayyip Erdogan”

Instead of providing a model for democracy, Turkey’s leader represents a throwback: an elected autocrat, tolerated by the West for maintaining a certain stability within and without, overseeing a procedural democracy with a pliant press and a dominant political party that serves only his wishes. His housing reflects his indispensability. The presidential mansion completed in 2014 that Erdogan calls home has more than 1,000 rooms, including one with a lab dedicated to detecting poison in the President’s food. The décor, heavy on red carpets, marble and chandeliers, suggests a return to Ottoman glory.

This was the year he mended fences with Russia after downing one of its warplanes, and with Israel after six years of strife, even as the chance that Turkey will ever actually join the E.U. became ever more remote. But Erdogan’s foreign policy was branded “neo-Ottoman” even before he justified sending troops to Iraq and Syria by questioning the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which set the borders of the state that followed the empire. We cannot act in the year 2016 with the psychology of 1923, he said on Oct. 18. Adding, We did not voluntarily accept the borders of our country, he urged that young Turks be taught that Mosul was once theirs. In another speech, he cast a growing regional conflict not in terms of nations but of sects. What you call ‘Baghdad’ is an administrator of an army composed of Shiʻites, he said.

“Peace at home, peace abroad” was the slogan Turkish schoolchildren learned from Ataturk. Under Erdogan, the country may end up with neither.

Jared Malsin

Worrying attitude – if not entirely surprising. With this rhetoric against the established borders, Erdogan is reshaping himself into a second Putin, the last thing the Middle East needs. These are the kinds of words that start wars…

Turkish people chant slogans during a pro-government rally in Izmir
Turkish people chant slogans during a pro-government rally in Izmir, Turkey, on July 16, 2016 Emre Tazegul—Depo Photos/Abaca Press

Around the corner, the manager of a tea shop approaches. I could write a book about Erdogan, but in a negative way, he says. The economy is going down; the sources of growth, industries like textiles, are shutting down. He declines to give his name. I don’t want to go to prison just because I talked to you, he says before walking away.

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