Speculation Over Erdogan Health Following Two Videos, Cancelled Visit

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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the G20 summit in Rome, Sunday.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the G20 summit in Rome, Sunday.Credit: Domenico Stinellis / AP

Two videos posted on social media of President President Recep Tayyip Erdogan his absence from the global climate conference in Glasgow have ignited new speculations about the authoritarian leader's health.   

Meanwhile, Turkey’s police cybercrime unit has opened an investigation into the increase in “baseless” social media posts questioning Erdogan's health, AFP reported on Wednesday.

One video circulating on Twitter appears to show Erdogan holding onto an aide’s shoulder while walking at the recent G20 Summit in Rome. None of the videos have been independently verified by Haaretz.

According to AFP's report, the investigation will focus on posts by 30 people who tweeted the hashtag #olmus (#heisdead in Turkish), and is a response to the widespread speculation regarding Erdogan’s health and capacity to continue in his current role.

In an apparent attempt to rebut the allegations, which have spread widely among Turkish social media users, national communications director Fahrettin Altun tweeted a video of the president walking down a blue carpet along with the comment “trust the friend, fear the enemy…”

On Monday, Erdogan cancelled plans to attend the global climate conference in Glasgow because Britain failed to meet Turkey's demands on security arrangements, Turkish media quoted him as saying, resulting in speculation that the cancellation was actually related to his allegedly failing health.

“There are reports that #Erdoğan's no-show at #COP26 resulted from #Scotland's failure to ‘fully meet’ his ‘security related demands’ & also rumors of a health issue,” tweeted Aykan Erdemir, the Turkey Program Senior Director at the Washington DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Last month, Foreign Policy ran an article detailing several recorded incidents of Erdogan appearing to have problems negotiating stairs as well as struggle with garbled speech during an event, although it noted that he looked “perfectly fine” during other public appearances.

“At times, he has looked quite gaunt,” the author wrote, noting that “in tandem with this footage are rumors about the president’s health—including stories alleging he has been dealing with increasing forgetfulness, bouts of breathing problems, confusion, vomiting, and the implantation of an internal defibrillator. According to these same accounts, the president has increased the number of doctors around him, reduced encounters with the press, and is being pumped up with painkillers before public events.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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