Of all the global leaders that have made a name for themselves for being controversial, president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan definitely stands out.
Seen both as a hero who navigated the country out of long-running economic misery and a rightist ever pushing Islamist reforms and endangering Ataturk’s secular legacies, Erdogan appears to ideally fit the definition of someone who knows how to stay in headlines.
The fact that he can be argued to have a few accomplishments to his credit makes his ‘feather-ruffling’ rhetoric all the more piquing. From his ascension to the seat of Prime Minister in early 2000s, he has presided over periods of high economic growth and has led the country through a sharp rise in the financial well-being of citizens.
During his long rule, Turkey’s power and standing has improved among not just among its middle eastern-neighbors, but also at global level. But the way he has practiced politics has put him at odds with many. He’s known to issue some of the most polarizing statements of any head of state – among which are those that, as perceived by his critics, are brazen attempts to dilute Turkey’s secular character, excessive criticism of west, particularly of what he calls their prejudice against Turkey, women’s societal role, gender equality, and even social media.
We’ll now look at some of the most ‘storm-stirring’ comments he has made over the years. Regarding Islamization of politics, a subject that has come to serve as a lightning rod of criticism for most, he remarked, “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers…” About women, “You cannot put women and men on an equal footing. It is against nature. They were created differently. Their nature is different. She should not laugh loudly in front of all the world and should preserve her decency at all times.”
And, “Our religion has defined a position for women (in society): motherhood. “ Even social media couldn’t escape his salvo. “The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society.”
These remarks, along with many others, have put major dents in Erdogan’s political reputation at home and come to strain his relations with the west. Voters, who once held faith in Erdogan ability to take their country forward, are now increasingly questioning his ability to lead.
It is indeed a sad set of affairs for the president, something for which only his politically self-sabotaging tendencies can be blamed. The example of Erdogan thus demonstrates how indiscretion can rob a leader of his popularity, despite having a portfolio of achievements under his belt.