Five faces of Turkish President Erdogan

Abhorred and adored, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been compared to sultans and pharaohs while stamping his outsized personality and dominating style on Turkey for 20 years.

Elected prime minister and then ultra-powerful president under a bespoke constitution, Erdogan has become Turkey’s most important and polarizing leader in generations.

Builder, political brawler and campaign beast, here are five of Erdogan’s most iconic traits.


By filling Turkey with bridges, highways and airports, Erdogan propelled the developing country into the 21st century with mega-investments, spurring growth.

He calls them his “crazy projects”: a third imposing bridge over the Bosphorus, another over the Sea of ​​Marmara, a third over the Dardanelles Strait.

They all set records, as did Istanbul’s Camlica Mosque – the largest in Turkey, filled with six minarets and able to accommodate 30,000 worshippers.

But perhaps the biggest of the megaprojects is the Istanbul Canal, built just west of the Bosphorus on land the city once considered a dreaded earthquake evacuation zone.

There’s plenty more, including high-speed rail, a third Istanbul airport – set to be the world’s largest – and power stations, including the country’s first nuclear, controversially built by Russia.

Football player

Raised in Istanbul’s popular district of Kasimpasa, the young Erdogan only dreamed of football, playing in a ball made of paper and rags, according to popular tradition.

His tall height – 1.85 meters, or just over six feet – made him a sought-after centre-forward.

He has received offers from several professional clubs, including Istanbul Fenerbahce.

But his father, an austere sailor from the Black Sea, told him to pursue religious studies.

Erdogan reluctantly gave up but remained a big fan, mingling with the players throughout his career.

In 2014, businessmen linked to Erdogan’s ruling party acquired Basaksehir, the least famous of Istanbul’s six clubs.

Based in a conservative neighborhood of the same name, Basaksehir quickly grew into a powerhouse, winning the league in 2020.

devout muslim

Erdogan’s father would have approved if the future president had become an imam instead.

In the secular Turkey created by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Erdogan attended one of the first religious public schools, combining Quran studies with other subjects.

Islam became the rallying cry of his electorate and of his new movement, called the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Erdogan advocates piety, disapproves of smoking and alcohol, and upholds traditional family values ​​to the detriment of the LGBTQ community and emancipated women.

The AKP celebrates motherhood as well as the wearing of the headscarf in school and in public office – a right that Atatürk had abolished with the formation of Turkey in 1923.

gifted speaker

A master of the campaign that comes to life on stage, Erdogan is a gifted orator who enjoys a challenge and prides himself on never losing a national election.

Derailed by stomach issues in recent days, past campaigns have seen Erdogan jump between eight cities in one day, delivering impassioned speeches to crowds of supporters.

A populist and artist, he announces salary increases, kisses babies, kisses elderly women and even distributes small change to children – a custom on religious holidays.

The pro-government media, which now dominates, captured it all, broadcasting his performances live across the country and replaying them late into the night.

Regional power

Erdogan has leveraged Turkey’s strategic position between Europe and the Middle East – guarding the southern shores of the Black Sea and the northern shores of the Mediterranean – to diplomatic advantage.

He assumed the role of mediator when Russia invaded Ukraine, becoming one of the few world leaders with free access to Vladimir Putin and Russia’s vast energy resources.

But he also supplied arms to kyiv and won international praise for helping broker a deal to resume grain exports from Ukraine.

On the other hand, he has drawn the wrath of the West for launching incursions into Syria. At one point, it appeared to be brawling simultaneously with all of Turkey’s neighbors, ranging from Iraq to Greece.

He severed ties with Israel and Egypt, intervened in the war in Libya, and helped Azerbaijan defeat Armenia in their 2020 war over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Facing a new economic crisis, Erdogan repaired fences, sought investment and engaged in “seismic diplomacy” with Greece after a massive shock in February killed more than 50,000 people.

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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)

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