By Pinar Tremblay
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s health has been a major issue in Turkish politics. Now the focus of public conversations is shifting towards his death.
In the late hours of November 2, and into the early hours of November 3, rumors of his death took over social media platforms. After canceling his visit to Glasgow, Erdogan’s daily public schedule was cleaned of all meetings. Although this was temporary, the screenshots of the website spread like wildfire on social media. November 3, 2002, is the day that AKP came to power, so each year the anniversary is commemorated with lavish receptions.
On WhatsApp, groups with current and former AKP members also shared their concerns. There were tens of messages asking, “Is Erdogan really dead?” and/or “Is Erdogan in intensive care?” These questions were further fueled by two videos. One was from October 29 Republic Day celebrations, where Erdogan was confused about where to go and walking with difficulty. Many on social media claimed his shoes resembled “balance” shoes.
The second was a pro-AKP journalist’s short mysterious video clip, telling his followers that they would be receiving sad news soon. The video did not mention Erdogan’s name and was recorded four months ago, but on Nov. 2, everyone with some sort of political connections received it from their WhatsApp message groups.
Rumors about sudden calls to AKP members to come to Ankara immediately intensified the rumors that Erdogan was at the hospital and then possibly dead. Pundits and hundreds of ordinary citizens joined in chat rooms of the Club House, WhatsApp as well as Twitter. Regular people from Turkey, as well as prominent dissidents living abroad, shared mixed emotions. People were worried, happy, euphoric, but the common denominator was the high intensity.