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05/06/2021
 

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: A Turkish Delight for the West?

What’s behind the Turkish president’s Western charm offensive?

BY MIHAILO S. ZEKIC

Turkey is a flourishing democracy committed to secularism and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Or, at least, that’s the narrative Turkish state-run media often touts.

Under strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has betrayed many of the values that made it unique in the Middle East. He has converted the Hagia Sophia from a museum to a mosque. He has purged Turkey’s military of constitutional loyalists. He has reorganized Turkey’s political system, allowing him to rule until 2029 (he’s been in power since 2003). He frequently makes anti-Semitic comments against Israel and has historically supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. He has thrown countless independent journalists in jail, making him one of the worst offenders for press repression. Reporters Without Borders ranked Erdoğan’s Turkey 154th in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index. That’s a lower rank than Russia, Venezuela and Pakistan, but a three-point improvement over its 2019 ranking. He even recently had a military standoff with fellow nato members Greece and France.

But lately, Erdoğan has been backtracking on his previous comments and actions. He’s been making statements—and even actions—that suggest he wants to be on friendlier terms with the West.

 
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