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Curiosity Over Erdogan’s Fake University Degree

Presidential election in Turkey is approaching fast. Candidates, especially Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are the hot topic among Turkish public because of Erdogan’s ‘forged’ university degree. Although Erdogan’s third run for the presidential post faces the hurdle that one cannot become a candidate for a third term as per the Constitution, the public has been more interested in seeing Erdogan’s authentic university degree for years so the mystery surrounding his educational qualification should be solved. One without a university degree cannot run for the presidential post. If Erdogan does not have university degree, all he did officially (and unofficially) to this date will be considered null and void.

This university degree saga has recently flared when the former Chairman of the Council of Higher Education (YOK), Yusuf Ziya Ozcan said ‘When I became the director of YOK, I wondered to know two things at first, and Erdogan’s university degree was one of them. When I asked this Erdogan’s so-called alma mater Marmara University, I was told no record of Erdogan existed in their records.’ After this resonant disclosure, Ozcan was also criticized on the social media especially for keeping such an important information for himself and not sharing with the public for a long time.

Almost at the same time with Ozcan’s disclosure, The New Welfare Party leader, Fatih Erbakan, challenged Erdogan by saying ‘My party will officially apply to the Turkish Election Board to check the authenticity of Erdogan’s university degree.’ That was a prominent escalation in Erdogan’s degree dispute and Erdogan silenced Fatih Erbakan by including The New Welfare Party in his Republic Alliance. After the dispute got tenser around Erdogan’s degree, Marmara University released a 10-paragraph statement stating, in short, that Erdogan graduated from the University and shared ‘an attested copy’ of the degree and the diploma register.

Those who did not have a university degree in their lives must have been convinced by the statement of the Marmara University while a substantial number of university graduates and Marmara University alumni found the statement and the supportive documents ‘insincere’. People repeatedly questioned the degree’s authenticity, highlighting several discrepancies about the signatories, spellings, dates and record numbers. The next day, the University apologized and ‘amended’ its statement by sharing another copy of the degree with the public. Amidst this discussion, Fahrettin Altun, President of the Directorate of Communications, shared Erdogan’s notary- verified degree through Hurriyet daily along with additional documents that showed his degree and study at Marmara University to express its authenticity. Authenticity? There was no original degree, no marks transcript, and no photo of Erdogan with his university friends. There were photocopied documents with several suspicious notary stamps and verifications.

Omer Basoglu, Republican People’s Party’s head in Gokcebey district, was among the strongest voices against the Erdogan’s university degree ‘lie’. He said, “I was a student of the same faculty during the same years Erdogan claims he was a student. I do not remember him from that time.” After that he was found suspiciously dead at his home in 2015.

While the public is curious about Erdogan’s fake university degree, what the opposition parties think about it is another topic of discussion. Everyone asks the strongest opposition party and its leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu to challenge Erdogan’s candidacy over his fake degree. Kilicdaroglu simply replied, “With whom should I complain to whom? All state institutions are under Erdogan’s tutelage, and my challenge will not mean anything at the moment. We want to send him packed by election, and not by any other means. Everyone will see he would be sent by election as he had come with election.” Ali Babacan, leader of the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) said during a live interview that Erdogan’s third-time candidacy is against the Constitution, and they would take legal action against it. Unfortunately, nothing has come out of this promise. All opposition parties are more like focused on sending Erdogan through an election and that seems their primary strategy at the moment.

While myriad discussions rage on the social media, Turkish Election Board (YSK) accepted the application of Erdogan without checking his university degree’s authenticity. Yusuf Ziya Ozcan, former director of the Council of Higher Education (YOK) and a politician from the DEVA Party said, “Turkish Election Board suspended the constitution today” referring to the acceptance of Erdogan’s candidacy with a forged degree. Ozcan also asked people to act against this before the election, saying “Do not wait for the election to take the right measure against this offense.”

In Turkey, it all looks like the stages of the same theatrical performance where the politicians and parties keep changing but the play stay the same one way or around. After all the disturbing facts and truths about politicians, nothing changes, and the public just watches the same ‘performance’ without batting an eyelid.  Everyone is just wishful for salvation with no action, while displaying political will and desire for salvation are the only things that will shape the future of Turkey and change the bleak prospects.

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Engin Yigit is a Politurco columnist, activist, and author. Follow him at @enginyigtt.

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