The life of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who survived a coup, bent an entire nation to his will, and owned the US over Syria
- Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan moved with deadly speed and purpose into Syria after Donald Trump pulled US troops from the country in early October.
- Trump and US officials have since tried in desperation to sway Erdogan from shelling and displacing thousands of Kurds, but have so far only succeeded in gaining a short-term ceasefire.
- Through a series of power moves Erdogan has outmaneuvered Trump, highlighting the dwindling power of the US in the Middle East.
- Erdogan rose through the ranks of Turkish politics to centralize power in the president's office, and has taken Turkey from a country constantly on the verge of coup to a sturdy, authoritarian regime.
- Here's everything we know about Turkey's commander in chief.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan took full advantage of the fallout from Donald Trump's decision to pull troops from northern Syria in early October.Turkish forces swooped into northern Syria soon after, displacing thousands of Kurds and killing dozens.Advertisement
Trump was slammed by officials in his own Republican party, who considered the withdrawal a betrayal of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which fought alongside US troops to defeat ISIS in Syria.
In turn, Erdogan has resisted hurried attempts from the US to secure a ceasefire, humiliating Trump on Thursday, after a letter from the US president warning him not to be a "tough guy" was put straight "in the bin," according to the BBC.Here's the full story of Turkey's commander in chief, who inherited his country in a state of constant coup or rebellion, and turned it into an authoritarian one-leader, one-party powerhouse straddling the Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan was born in Istanbul on February 26, 1954, the son of a captain in the Turkish Coast Guard.
His family weren't rich, so Erdogan spent his after-school hours selling lemonade and sesame buns to make ends meet.Advertisement
The young Erdogan was politically active from the get-go.
Erdogan went to Marmara University in Istanbul, and was drawn to Political Islam after meeting Necmettin Erbakan, the former Turkish Prime Minister.Advertisement
Though Erdogan was making a name for himself in youth politics, any future in politics was halted by a short stint as a semi-professional soccer player.
He hung up his boots, and began a career in politics with a job at Istanbul's transport authority. Erdogan was fired soon after, however, after he refused to shave off his now-iconic mustache.Advertisement
In 1994, after rising through the ranks of the Islamicist Welfare Party, Erdogan was elected mayor of Istanbul, and got his first taste of high public office.
He took to the job quickly, banning alcohol in cafes, cleaning up Istanbul, and clearing the city's huge debts.Advertisement
But in 1998 he was fired as mayor and jailed for four months for inciting religious hatred after reading a poem comparing Islam to a war.
The love of tradition and devotion to Islam which defined Erdogan's later life were already plain to see early in his career.Advertisement
In 2001, Erdogan, despite his ban from politics, founded the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which in 2002 swept to victory in national elections.
Between 2002 and 2013 Erdogan travelled the world as Prime Minister, while the AKP won a string of elections at home.Advertisement
In May 2013, Erdogan faced his first major set of protests and riots over allegations of corruption and plans to turn an Istanbul park into a shopping center.
In August 2014, Erdogan was elected as President of Turkey.Advertisement
Days after his election, Erdogan declared a new Presidential Complex would be built in Ankara. It was ambitious, and a symbol of his new power.
More powerful than ever before, Erdogan soon cultivated the titles "beyefendi" which means "sir" and "reis" which means "chief" from his admirers.Advertisement
But after two turbulent years of his presidency, Erdogan was struck by a whirlwind coup attempt.
On July 15, 2016, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said the military was moving "outside the chain of command" and had made an "illegal attempt" to seize power.Advertisement
In 2017, Erdogan won a controversial referendum which gave him more power, effectively turning Turkey from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential republic.
Erdogan's style as Turkey's supreme leader has been forceful, disconcerting, and even bizarre at times.Advertisement
In 2014, Erdogan couldn't attend a meeting so instead beamed a pirouetting hologram of himself into a room of shocked party members.
In 2016, Erdogan declared all Turkish women should have three children and said those who wouldn't were "deficient."Advertisement
And in 2016, amid the military coup, Erdogan gave a crisis statement on TV — except he appeared on an iPhone screen via Apple's FaceTime from a safe house.
In June 2019, Erdogan was the surprise best man at the wedding of German soccer star Mezut Ozil.Advertisement
In August 2019, Erdoğan said he was in favor of reinstating the death penalty, after a woman was brutally murdered by her ex-husband in a public cafe.
Erdogan's temperament is not to be tested. The president is extremely sensitive when it comes to caricatures and parodies of his appearance.Advertisement
Despite occasional protests and constant allegations of corruption, Erdogan was reelected President in June 2018 with 53% of the vote.
In light of the Turkey's advances into northern Syria in October 2019, it's clear Erdogan's appetite for control is not waning as he nears his 18th year in power.Advertisement
Turkey has taken in two million Syrian refugees fleeing the 2011 civil war. Erdogan wants to reclaim a large "safe zone" of land in northern Syria to resettle them.
On Thursday, after a fortnight of fighting, Turkey agreed to a five-day ceasefire so that Syrian-Kurdish forces could move out of Turkey's path. It expires on Tuesday.Advertisement
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