“Erdoğan” by Can Dündar and Mohamed Anwar, the comic about Erdoğan’s rise to power

This article is also available in: Italiano

“Erdoğan” by Can Dündar and Mohamed Anwar is a truly fascinating graphic novel which, through the story of Erdoğan’s rise to power, also tells the story of the Turkish ‘900

“Erdoğan” by Can Dündar and Mohamed Anwar

How did a child born into a poor Anatolian family become the strong man of the new Turkey? Two opponents of the current Ankara regime, one a journalist, the other a cartoonist, have chosen the graphic novel to tell the story of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s impetuous rise to power.


The Turkish president is one of the most controversial political figures of the 21st century, the most enduring politician in Turkey and in Europe, who is now seeking new spaces in the Mediterranean. He became mayor of Istanbul in 1994, as a moderate Islamist he founded his own party in 2001, winning the general elections the following year. He conquered the voters with his charisma and carried out severe purges within the Turkish army and administration, defeating his opponents and transforming Turkey from a secular republic into an authoritarian Islamic country.

Erdoğan’s rise to power

I have been dreaming of coming across a work like this for a long time and I must immediately thank the Nutrimenti publishing house for bringing this marvel to Italy and, obviously, the two authors, able to do a truly superb job for depth and impartiality ; element which really sets them apart from the Turkish leader, which de facto forced Can Dündar into exile in Germany.


In this graphic novel we will discover the origins of Erdoğan and his entire rise to power up to the foundation of the AKP, his party, and the subsequent conquest of the Turkish government; an epic still in progress that led him, willy-nilly, to revolutionize the soul of Turkey, transforming it into the reality we know today. However, the rise to power was by no means easy and this led him each time to find new tricks (not always legal) to obtain absolute domination over a country which, up to then, frowned upon the intrusion of religion in politics, so much so that Erdoğan was arrested over and over again, however often managing to obtain advantages from situations unfavorable to him.

History of the Turkish ‘900

In my view, however, the extra edge of this graphic novel is to show not only Erdoğan’s life (very interesting anyway), but also to focus on the Turkish socio-cultural context from the 50s to the early 2000s We are talking about an epoch of central importance not only for the future leader of the AKP, but also for the entire Turkish society which, between coups d’état and the increasingly unstoppable rise of phenomena such as political Islam, has helped create the perfect substrate for Erdoğan’s future successes.


Indeed, it is foolish to think of truly understanding a phenomenon of this magnitude by focusing only on a figure who, however central and decisive, can only represent the consequence of profound changes in a given society. This graphic novel is really important because it helps us understand the origins of the “Erdoğan phenomenon”, leading us to profound reflections also on what has been, in general, the transformation of Turkish politics, thus telling us not only the story of a single man but , de facto of an entire country.

I wanted to bring you this graphic novel during the election period precisely because I believe that, more than ever today, it is essential to understand where it all started, so as to be able to formulate hypotheses about when and how this phenomenon, whether we like it or not, will end . A comic that has nothing to envy to works like Persepolis which, in my humble opinion, deserves to be in every library of those who really want to try to understand contemporary Turkey. Translated by Giulia Ansaldo, former translator of: “Uzun Yürüyüş” by Ayhan Geçgin, “Her eyes” by Bozorg ‘Alavi and “The Peace Machine” by Özgür Mumcu

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