A pre-recorded Eid al-Adha greeting video from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan released on Wednesday showed him falling asleep for a moment while addressing members of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), rekindling debates about his health.
In the 13-minute video, which quickly went viral on social media, the president is seen closing his eyes and dozing off for a second between two sentences of his Eid greeting before he quickly recovers to continue from where he left off.
Journalist Fatih Altaylı on Thursday said in his column for the Habertürk news website that it was a “real disgrace” on the state-run Anadolu news agency’s part to release the video without cutting out the moment where Erdoğan is seen falling asleep for a split second.
“Such things could happen during a live stream. … But showing those moments in a recording that had been shot and montaged in advance and was then released is awful,” Altaylı said, claiming that it indicates someone close to Erdoğan wants to put him in a difficult position by trying to make him appear weak.
Noting that a conservative journalist told him that the video was directly sent from the presidency and that it put them in a difficult situation, too, Altaylı described the development as a “national security issue” and added that it was “unacceptable.”
“Not a single country in the world would knowingly release such a pre-taped recording of their leader because it would open that leader’s [health] up to worldwide discussion. It becomes a clear indicator of [his] vulnerability,” the journalist explained.
Regarding the reasons behind Erdoğan’s dozing off, Altaylı said it could be “extreme fatigue, an illness or something else entirely.”
Social media users took to Twitter to react to the video, with one quoting Erdoğan’s remarks regarding former Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit from the Democratic Left Party (DSP).
“Ecevit is seriously ill. He has health problems. He should resign already,” Erdoğan said back in 2002, only months before his AKP came to power.
Another user sarcastically said the president was “rebooting himself,” referring to a process used to kickstart technological devices that suffer from erroneous operations.
Although Erdoğan has long been rumored to suffer from multiple health problems, the presidency hasn’t yet made an official statement on the subject.
Erdoğan underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in 2011 and suffers from epilepsy, among other possible health complications, which may explain his sometimes erratic behavior, angry outbursts and conflicting remarks that puzzle many outside observers, the Swedish-based Nordic Monitor revealed in a report in May 2020. According to the news website, secrecy is paramount when it comes to Erdoğan’s health, since any revelation of declining health could encourage his opponents, who would start raising questions as to whether he was fit to occupy the country’s highest executive office.