British-based Turks fear country will become Afghanistan if Erdogan re-elected

Turkey’s Erdogan says West pursues ‘provocation’ policy

UK-based voters in the Turkish elections say they fear the country could become like “Afghanistan or Iran” if reigning President Tayyip Recep Erdogan is victorious.

Expats who spoke to Express.co.uk outside a London polling station, where some of Britain’s 127,281 Turkish citizens registered to vote have been casting ballots in the runoff elections, are scared Erdogan will pursue an ultraconservative Islamist agenda where women’s rights were repressed and freedom stifled.

“We are already becoming like Iran and we are not far from Afghanistan,” a young professional who spoke on the condition of anonymity said. “I mean, they have more freedom to do things in Saudi Arabia.

“At the moment, it’s horrible for women’s rights, LGBT rights and animal rights. The president of the country has threatened people with what he’ll do if he wins, like, what the hell?”

On Saturday huge queues of thousands of Turks snaked around a hotel in Hammersmith, West London being used as a polling station until Monday evening (May 22). Buses brought voters from across London to cast ballots in the second-round runoff vote between Erdogan and challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu, sparked by the current president’s failure to achieve the margin for victory in the initial ballot.

During the initial vote violence erupted both in Turkey and at polling stations in other countries. Clashes between rival voters in Marseille, France saw four people rushed to hospital and police were also called to a fight in Amsterdam.

Security at the London venue was high with dogs trained to smell for explosives moving throughout the crowd. Voters had to pass through metal detectors and everyone entering the hotel was searched.

Many casting their votes were reluctant to speak to the media for fear of the consequences for them and their families. In the past decade, Turkey has handed prison sentences to members of the public for what they share on Twitter and has been named the world’s biggest jailer of journalists.

Multiple voters told Express.co.uk they felt there was a lack of appreciation for the lack of freedom Turkish people have in the UK.

“They just see Turkey as a cheap holiday place they can go in the summer,” a woman who has lived in the UK for six years said, “but extremism is being promoted.

“My fear is like in the next 10 years we are going to be asked to cover our heads if we want to enter the country, like Iran. These are the things that are at stake and that’s why we are worried about the future.”

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The young professional voter claimed Erdogan’s two decades in power had caused many people to leave the country and, if he continues in power, more will follow.

She added: “There is already a huge flood of smart people leaving to go into universities and working in the US and UK, like us. Most of them want to go back and contribute to the country, but they don’t because their freedoms are taken away, they can’t express their opinions and don’t get paid what they should be.”

He claimed there was a lack of respect for educated professionals and highlighted the regular attacks on doctors by relatives of patients as evidence of this. In the past two decades, 12 doctors have been killed in Turkey and in 2021 there were more than 80 cases of violence against healthcare workers every day.

“There’s huge corruption of all kinds,” he added. “A lot of my friends who have studied so hard for the university, look for jobs and don’t get them because of the corruption. Someone else with connections gets the position.”

Voting in polling stations set up for Turkish voters in London, Manchester, Leicester, and Edinburgh concludes at 10pm tonight.

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