Why I Am Grateful to Erdogan, the Dictator of Turkey


By Ismail Akbulut

I am sure that the very title I chose for this article will enrage some of my readers. Why on earth would one be grateful to a dictator? Indeed, that is a legitimate question. My answer is that I am grateful to Erdogan, currently the president of Turkey, because he has made me a better human being.

I was born and raised in Germany to a Turkish immigrant family. At home, my family told me stories about the glorious and flawless history of the Turkish people, superior to others in every way. The heroic Turkish War of Independence in the 1920s, waged against the great occupying European Allies, was narrated to me by family members, through their tears of patriotic fervor.  At every official meeting of the Turkish community, our national anthem was sung with the utmost pride.

At the time, I believed that I was related to a special group of people, the Turks, who throughout history endured oppression, envy and greed at the hands of other powers. Our enemies were all around us, yet we remained standing. We Turkish people were always able to defeat them with God’s help, and establish the most beautiful country on earth, the Republic of Turkey.

Conveniently, I chose not to believe in the narratives told by minorities, such as the Kurds, Armenians, Greeks, and Jews, regarding their suffering under Turkish rule. I allowed myself to be blind to that which might contradict my idealized image of the homeland.

When I beheld Erdogan rising to power in 2002, I believed I was witnessing the glorious embodiment and manifestation of the collective Turkish people, in his rule.  Then an underdog, and a victim of discrimination and bigotry against religious people, Erdogan defeated the powerful political secular elites who had long ruled Turkey while oppressing the pious, along with ethnic and religious minorities. He did this with the support and the trust of the majority of the Turkish people who showed up to vote.

Get the Mirror in your inbox:

For people like me, that believe, as he did, in freedom of religion in the public realm, his success appeared like a beautiful romantic dream, similar to the stories my family told to me about the successes of the Turkish people.

A few years later, I woke up sweating and violently trembling from this dream. “Humble” Erdogan had transformed into a populist, oppressive and brutal dictator, even while presenting himself as one of the masses, a victim of “powerful forces,” despite the fact that his successful quest for increasing authority has made him the most powerful man in Turkey for decades.

This power corrupted Erdogan, and his fear of losing power has made him paranoid. This has resulted in his frequent use of violence and oppression to crush dissent. At times, he has blocked Twitter and Facebook. He has thrown hundreds of journalists in jail, and taken over media outlets. Today, he has arrested over 50 thousand people, and according to Amnesty International, torture and abuse are rampant in Turkish jails.

This power-poisoning made me think and question all those stories that I had learned about my Turkish heritage.

I started listening and reading about the stories that Kurds, Armenians, and other minorities in Turkey have told. I was flabbergasted to learn that, in fact, there are many parallels between what happened to them, and what is happening today to many innocent people in Turkey that have been fired, detained, or jailed by Erdogan.

I now recognize that hundreds of thousands of Armenians, including women and children were massacred, displaced or deported in 1915. The Armenians’ crime was merely being Armenian. Today, Erdogan, a man who claims to be a righteous Muslim, ordered the arrest of thousands of journalists, academics, public servants, teachers, business people, women, and children. Yes, you have not read wrong, almost 700 children (some are babies) are currently being raised in Turkish prisons, held there because of the “crimes” of their mothers. Human rights violations, torture, abductions and displacements, now are a part and parcel of everyday life. The crime of many of those affected is simply being related to a person who does not share the same worldview as Erdogan.

Topics: erdogan, Germany

For decades, Kurds were regarded in Turkey as a lesser Turkish tribe, “mountain Turks,” who were expected to assimilate into the larger Turkish identity, completely forgoing their Kurdish heritage, language, music, and culture. Whenever Kurds spoke up for social justice and equality, they were labeled as “separatist terrorists” and either jailed, deported or massacred. In today’s Turkey, representatives and members of Amnesty International, the pro-Kurdish political party HDP, the Gulen Movement, and other human rights groups, have been arrested, charged with collaboration with “an armed terrorist organization” that Erdogan argues tried to overthrow the Turkish government. Clearly, Erdogan has found that calling people “terrorists” effectively neutralizes them in society; it enables him to completely socially isolate them, and to justify all forms of violence against them.

So, how did Erdogan make me a better person?

Erdogan’s brutality raised my awareness of Turkey’s flaws, and my ability to be critical of Turkish history. It caused me to question nationalistic narratives that I previously accepted as facts. If many Turks are now conveniently unaware of (or unwilling to see) the human price of Erdogan’s rise to power, I see clearly now that all of those notions of Turkish superiority I used to believe in were just part of a grand, nation-building myth. The price of that “beautiful” myth was to deny the pain and oppression of Turkey’s ethnic and religious minorities. I can no longer pay that price; my own blinders have been ripped off by these events.

Erdogan helped me realize that it is incredibly important to listen to individuals and groups who feel neglected, humiliated and oppressed. I have realized that only through facing my mistakes and false perceptions, can I sleep in peace.

He also made me understand how important it is to live by a set of universal values, and not for my own material interests. When you are loyal to your values you will always be a person who can be trusted.

Therefore, I thank you, Mr. President Erdogan.
(Ismail Akbulut is board president of a Colorado-based non-profit, Multicultural Mosaic Foundation (Twitter @IsmailDenver))


Previous Anthony Bourdain Is Banned from Ever Entering Azerbaijan but Probably not Crying in His Soup
Next Recipe Corner: Layered Middle Eastern Mazza (or Salad)
  • Charles Kerry

    Yeah, but what it took for you to start questioning(to get to this point).A rise of a ruthless leader ,who oppresses his own people, and a constant threat to its neighboring countries . History repeats itself ,because instead of Germany ,Nazi’s, and Adolf Hitler, we have Erdogan and Turkey and his visions of a Neo Ottoman Empire (visions of grandeur ) ,supported by a majority of Turkish population. At what expense to your people, and your neighbors, and maybe to the world ,will this Monster Erdogan cost ? Will wars be created by this Monster Erdogan ? How many lives will be lost ,and destroyed countries, will Erdogan cause? Will your leader be the one to trigger World War 3? As a Greek American I can talk for most Greeks in Greece, that we want peace in the region, and want friendly neighbors. As a Greek American with ancestry in Cyprus, we also want peace and reunification of the Island ,and Turkish troops to exit Cyprus .The war is over in Cyprus let Turkish Cypriots and Greeks Cypriots Unite the Island with out Turkey and Erdogan interfering .I know wrongs have been done in the past by both sides ,but shouldn’t we all have a chance to show that we can change and want a better future for all in Cyprus and the whole region ? I think it would be good to be friends with other countries and do business and trade and work on new technologies in solving issues that would benefit all in the region, instead of constantly rattling a saber, or a of threat
    war ?

  • FresnoArmenians

    Its hard to believe that the Mirror Spectator an Armenian newspaper would listen to a lying Gulenist by the name of Ismail Akbulut. Ismail is the typical Gulenist / Hizmet manipulator, they play games as the Azerbaijan lobbying in the USA while trying to be “friends” with every religious and ethnic group in the USA (the same playbook they try in Australia, England, et al) Akbulut and the Armenians that allowed this jerk off to write in our paper have both fallen into the trap of “Anti-Erdogan” which is the next leader to be demonized and taken down. Erdogan was PUT into office as the AKP was by the CIA backed Gulen Movement. Now that Erdogan is giving a middle finger to NATO and CIA he is the bad guy for standing up to these Heroin smuggling, criminals ala Qadafyi, Mubarek, Hussein et al.
    Ismail, has conned a few of the fake Christians of Colorado that are so liberal they wouldn’t know a real muslim from a fake one. The Gulen Movement a CIA Gladio Operation has nothing to do with Islam and in fact is not recognized by OIC countries, they are a cult worth billions of dollars. While their 3rd grade educated hocaefendi FETO lives on a $30 million dollar 40 acre estate in Saylorsburg, his followers like Akbulut rob American taxpayers blind via an elaborate money laundering scheme using publicly funded charter schools and their gadzillon NGOs and fake ass dialogue. Those same NGOs like Turkic American Alliance that paid millions to Hastert to quash the Armenian Genocide Bill in Congress.
    Congratulations to the Armenians that think that siding with Gulen will take down Erdogan, only for Erdogan to be replaced by someone much worse. The Gulen Movement is behind the death of Hrant Dink and the jailing of many Journalists like Orhan Pamuk,Ahmet Sik, Nadem Sener. Akbulut has sour grapes as the Gulen Movement deep state no longer has control of the Republic of Turkey., and everyday are being flushed out of more than 60 countries and kidnappings in 5 countries getting rid of the heads of this snake., where they have managed to “work into the arteries of the system” as their cult leader FETO instructs them.
    In Washington DC, it’s a known fact the Gulenists are now ignored by members of congress and inner circle of the White House. Before Trump the Gulenists were allowed top access to the White House and hosted many trips for members of Congress to Turkey, Azerbaijan and other former soviet Turkic countries. Gulenists now play “victim” ahhhhh, big bad Erdogan who hates Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians and Kurds is now committing Genocide on us poor little pious Gulenists we are only here to bring love, peace and dialogue (as if they accomplished this in Turkey) . Seriously that is what these brainwashed jackasses like Akbulut want the world to believe. For know they are being used, for their Heroin Smuggling and weapons smuggling via Silk Air ways in Azerbaijan (the first country the CIA backed Gulen Movement opened schools) Akbulut is a criminal, and his cemaat caused the death of over 250 Turkish Civilians and over 1,000 injured. They are being PURGED from the banks, business, and other money control they once had. Akbulut thinks that Armenians are stupid and will play follow the leader of “Hate Erdogan” “Evil Erdogan” “Dictator Erdogan” ….eventually that will happen as well as the Gulen Movement and their trashy charter schools will be taken down. But as the CIA Operation Gladio goes, it’s a covert dark operation that at the end of the day they will have Erdogan and the people of Turkey do the work. http://www.empireofdeceit.com Watch this lying Akbulut play victim on Colorado news while the gay ministers and other “so called” churches support them as just a bunch of great guys. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYAeSNOHB6o

  • FresnoArmenians

    Figured Mirror Spectator would censor comments, since they have chosen to give a platform to a Gulen brainwashed cult follower. The same follower that supported Azerbaijan as the rest did and was part of the bribe machine in shutting down the Armenian Genocide Resolution with Dennis (the menace) Hastert. No wonder Armenian Americans no longer support Armenian journalism/propaganda. Akbulut is a pathological liar.

  • DominqueBrazil

    Really ? This guy is comparing the Armenian, Greek, Kurd, and Assyrian genocides to locking up CIA Gulen Movement criminals? I humorously have heard these people in the Gulen Movement refer to what the Government of Turkey is doing to the Gulenists as “Genocide” . This Akbulut character only says that now because these people in this criminal group are being stopped worldwide, they were fine robbing all the countries they were in and being on top of the world. I am a teacher I am very familiar with what these punk Gulenists have done in our country and the amount of credentialed teachers they put out of work to hire “one of their own” they were on their way to destroying the USA as they destroyed Turkey. Actually we should all thank Erdogan for getting rid of these criminals from our society., in my community they were bribing everyone in local politics up to the state government and taking them all to Turkey, just a quick search on this Akbulut character he did the same took the Governor of Colorado to Turkey. Although i hear they have fallen out of favor with politicians, the Gulenists here were protesting with the Azerbaijanis against “criminal Armenian killers” Akbulut should get a life away from that cult and Armenians should be cautious with cult followers like Akbulut.

  • Pat Madsen

    Thank you so much for this, Ismail. It is tragic but true that we humans often need to have our own ox gored to realize that oxen are at risk (from other other oxen, as we are at risk from other human beings). But I know for myself that, while I wish I were able to see things before they impact me, I cannot spent too much time with wishing — I have to spend my energy going forward as the person who is now more aware, and more motivated to be helpful to others. Your story reinforces my own resolve. You have done us all a service.

  • nihal

    I read the whole article and I can easily relate to my own feelings. It was nicely worded. Keep up the good work Ismail!