Turkey’s president is a dictator.
Since a failed coup d’etat last July, Erdogan has overseen an unprecedented purge of about 200,000 people, from police officers to academics to bureaucrats. News outlets such as Der Spiegel, the Independent, the Guardian, the Telegraph, Newsweek, the Huffington Post and the New Yorker have all called Erdogan a dictator. He has even embraced the label: “If the West calls someone a dictator,” he said, “in my view that is a good thing.”
Still, Erdogan — who served as prime minister from 2003 until 2014, when he became head of state — has a more complicated relationship with Turkish citizens than tin-pot dictators like former Tunisian president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali or Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. The AK Party has prevailed in 10 consecutive elections because Erdogan has delivered. Turks are wealthier, healthier and more mobile than ever before. Erdogan has made it possible for Turks to explore their religious identities in ways they were never permitted under previous governments. For his supporters, his time in office represents a revolution in rights and personal liberties. Turkish women are now free to wear the hijab in places where it was previously banned; it is now safe for pious Turks to participate in politics. If election results are