To Progress and Back: The Rise and Fall of Erdogan’s Turkey

By Hasnain Kazim, Maximilian Popp and Samiha Shafy at Spiegel

This is Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s country: a gorgeous mountain scenery on the Black Sea. On lush, green hillsides, people pick tea leaves and only interrupt their work to pray.

Erdogan calls them “his people,” and for them, he erected an Ottoman-style mosque atop one of the highest peaks. It stands so high above the villages that it is barely discernable from below. A death-defying path winds up the mountain and takes about 45 minutes to traverse in a car, but many people here make the climb by foot anyway in order to feel closer to God — and to Erdogan, their beloved president.

“I wish I could kiss his hand!” cries Aysel Aksay, 40. She is out of breath but her smile radiates all the same. Aksay is from Güneysu, the village at the foot of the mountain from which Erdogan’s family also hails. In a headscarf and a black coat, Aksay gazes at the white marble structure as it glows in the sun. She is excited and happy to pray here, even though she may only do so inside the windowless room reserved for women. “On the opening day, I watched as the president’s helicopter flew over our country,” Aksay says. “We are so proud of him.”

Many people here share Aksay’s sentiments. They worship Erdogan, whom they see as one of their own — a pious, simple man who made it to the top by working hard.

If the rest of the country were like Güneysu, Erdogan — who has ruled almost single-handedly for 13 years — would have had no trouble securing another triumphant victory in the June 7 election. But the people of this region aren’t the only Turks, and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) only got

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