Monday, March 05, 2012

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

My experience in Turkey shined some anecdotal light on Prime Minister Erdogan. There were mixed, but mostly negative opinions of him.

A carpet seller from Konya in his late 20s had a favorable view of Erdogan. His views were in the context of religious freedom in Turkey. He said that people in Turkey are free to do what they want, whether it is drinking alcohol or follow a religious course. He also lauded society's tolerance towards minorities, specifically with regards to my Jewishness.

A doctor from Izmir in her 50s felt that now was the most frightening time in Turkey because of Erdogan and the AKP. She agreed with the ruling that smoking should not be allowed indoors and the potential law change involving the drinking age being moved up to 21. However, she said some of her friends were considered that these measures are part of a wider effort of the government to assert more control over society and impose its Islamic ideas (especially on alcohol) on the country.

She criticized the Prime Minister for not helping the poor though he came from a poor family. She said the poor view Erdogan as a symbol and were not concerned with his anti-poor policies. She also accused him of giving deeds just before the election to poor people who built illegal houses in exchange for their vote. She also was critical of his conciliatory tone towards the Kurds.

Two hotel receptionists from Istanbul in their 20s were also critical of Erdogan. As did the doctor from Izmir, they noted Erdogan and his wife's extraordinary wealth. Much of it was gained by way of corruption, according to the people I talked to. A third hotel receptionist from Istanbul said that he was not a supporter of Erdogan, but that he was the most capable to run the country and realistically the only option.

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