Erdogan, selling lemonade to Turkey's most powerful leader

 How Erdogan, who sold lemonade and bagel bread in the early days of his age, became Turkey's one of the most powerful leaders 

How Erdogan, who sold lemonade and bagel bread in the early days of his age, became Turkey's one of the most powerful leaders

After starting out as an ordinary person, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become a major political figure today.  The country has been restructured. 

However, his chances of extending to a third decade in power are slim now that Turkey has suffered its most devastating earthquake since 1999. 

The opposition accused him of failing to take disaster-prevention measures in a country prone to powerful earthquakes and bringing the economy to the brink of collapse.

Journey to Power : 

Born in Feb 1954, Erdogan's Dad was a coast guard.  When Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was 13 years old, his father decided to move to Istanbul in hopes of a better upbringing for his five children. 

To earn money, the teenage Erdogan sold lemonades and sesame bagel, famous in Turkey as samit.  He attended an Islamic school before earning a degree in management from Istanbul's Marmara University. 

His university degree becomes controversial, opposition claiming that he hasn't completed full university degree but just done college diploma.  Erdogan has always denied this accusation. 

The young Erdogan also took an interest in football and was part of semi-professional football teams until the 1980s. 

But his main interest was politics.  In the 1970s and 80s, he was active in Islamist circles and joined the pro-Najmuddin Arbakan Islamic Welfare Party. 

As the party grew in popularity in the 1990s, Erdogan ran for mayor of Istanbul in 1994 and ran the city for the next four years. 

Erbakan, Turkey's first Islamist prime minister, served only a year in office before being forced to resign by the military in 1997, and Erdogan also fell out with the country's hardline secular authorities. 

In the same year he was convicted of inciting racial hatred for reciting in public a nationalist poem which included the lines: 'Mosques are our barracks, domes are our helmets, towers are our bullets and loyal are our soldiers.' 

After spending 4 months in jail, he returned in politics.  But in 1998, his party was banned for violating the strict secular rules of the modern Turkish state.

     Aug 2001, he started a new Islamist party, Justice and Development Party (AKP), with political ally Abdullah Gul. 

Erdogan's popularity was increasing particularly in two groups, the 1st was Turkey's religious majority who felt marginalized by the country's nonreligious elite, and the second was those suffering from the economic downturn of the late 1990s. 

In 2002, Erdogan's 'AKP' won majority in the parliamentarian elections and the followed year He appointed as Prime Minister.  He is the chairman of the party till date. 

However, he repeatedly stated that women's primary role in society should be to 'fulfill traditional gender roles' and that for a woman 'to be an ideal mother and an ideal wife' is above all else. 

He condemned the feminists and said that men and women cannot be treated equally. 

President Erdogan has long supported Islamic causes and political Islam.  Groups that are ideologically supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, oppressed by Egypt.  He has also at one point performed the four-fingered salutation known as Raba. 

July 2020, he oversee the conversion of Istanbul historic Hagia Sophia into a masjid, angering many of the Christians and nonreligious Turkish Muslims.  It was built as a church 1,500 years ago, and was converted into a mosque by the Turks during the Ottoman period, but Atatürk turned it into a museum, a symbol of the new secular state. 

Strong grip on power: 

He ran for president in 2014 after he was barred from running for re-election after completing three terms as prime minister. 

He planned to reform the post under new constitutional amendments that critics say challenged the country's secular establishment. 

But early in his presidency, he faced two problems regarding his powers.  First, his party lost its majority in parliament for several months in 2015, and then the following year, on July 15, 2016, Turkey experienced its first attempted military coup in decades.

In this incident, around 300 civilians were killed while resisting the military mutineers. 

The plot was blamed on the Gulen movement led by an American-based Islamic scholar named Fethullah Gulen. 

Their social and cultural movement helped Erdogan win three consecutive elections, but when the two coalitions split, it had dramatic effects on Turkish society. 

After the 2016 coup attempt, some 150,000 civil servants were fired and more than 50,000 people were detained, including soldiers, journalists, lawyers, police officers, academics and Kurdish politicians. 

Erdogan's crackdown on critics has sparked international alarm and chilled Turkey's relations with the European Union.  Since then, Turkey's efforts to join the European Union have been unsuccessful for several years.  In such a situation, the large number of immigrants in Greece made matters more tense. 

In 2017, he narrowly won the presidential referendum, after which he received unlimited presidential powers, including the power to intervene in the legal system, including imposing a state of emergency and appointing top government officials. 

International personality : 

During his tenure, President Erdogan also emerged as an important figure in international politics.  He presented Turkey as a regional power and angered allies in Europe and the rest of the world with strong diplomacy. 

Although he is the head of a NATO member state, he has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and has cast himself as a mediator in the Russia-Ukraine war. 

He helped to make possible the agreement on the safe trade of commodities through the Black Sea route and helped to maintain the agreement when Russia tried to break it. 

They also awaited their bids for Sweden and Finland to join the Western Alliance.  He eventually approved Finland's accession but kept Sweden out, accusing the country of harboring Kurdish separatists and other dissidents he considered 'terrorists'. 

Electoral failure: 

Many critics see the 2019 local elections as the 'first blow' to President Erdogan's long rule as his party lost in the three major cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. 

Losing the Istanbul mayoralty to Ekrim Imamoglu of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) was a bitter blow for Erdogan, who had been the city's mayor in the 1990s. 

Now Imamoglu wants to extend this success to the national level.  He is running a presidential campaign with Erdoğan's opponent presidential candidate Kemal Kildağlu. 

Criticism of the government's lack of preparedness and slow response to Turkey's devastating earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people and left millions homeless is one of the many challenges facing Erdogan.  Another is the poor state of the economy, with millions of people struggling to survive. 

Turkish President Erdogan's two-decade rule faces a tough fight against a powerful political coalition in the country's May 14 presidential and parliamentary elections. 

This article is based on an article by Paul Kirby, editor of BBC News Online Europe.

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