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Alleged classmate confirming Erdoğan’s graduation from university met with skepticism

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Recent remarks made by an alleged classmate of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at Marmara University claiming that the president completed a four-year course of study there, an assertion that has never been proven by satisfactory documentation, have been met with skepticism.

Erdoğan has been at the center of a controversy regarding his university degree since he was first elected head of state in 2014 since a four-year university degree is a prerequisite for serving as president in Turkey.

Since the Office of the President has provided no satisfactory documentation of his graduation, the debate as to Erdoğan’s completion or not of university courses has been ongoing since 2014.

Israeli journalist Rafael Sadi said during a Wednesday program on Halk TV that Erdoğan was his classmate at the university and that they studied together for four years.

When Sadi was asked to clarify whom he was referring to as his “classmate,” he answered: “[Erdoğan] … [the person] about whom [people] debate whether he has a diploma or not. We studied together at the university for four years.”

Sadi described Erdoğan as a “quiet, nice boy” who “wouldn’t mess with anyone” during his years at university.

In reply to a question of whether Erdoğan was an economist as he claims to be, Sadi said, “I’m not, because I didn’t get a diploma, but since he did, it means he’s an economist.”

Sadi added that he is currently in contact with five or six of their mutual friends from the university but that they don’t want their names to be known since they don’t want to “get in trouble.”

The journalist’s remarks were met with skepticism by many on social media, especially dissident journalists.

Journalist Fatma Sibel Gürcihan tweeted that Sadi’s remarks that he studied together with Erdoğan for four years at the university came out of the blue after he wrote articles on the president’s lack of a diploma on the Oda TV news website for years.

Referring to journalist Barış Terkoğlu, one of the hosts of the program on Halk TV who was part of management at Oda TV at the time, Gürcihan added: “He didn’t say, ‘If you studied together for four years, why didn’t you tell us this before? Why did you deceive us by writing articles [saying Erdoğan has] no diploma?”

Gürcihan further underlined that the two other hosts of the program, journalist Şirin Payzın and economist Emin Çapa, also failed to ask Sadi about the university and the years in which he studied with Erdoğan, the names of academics and fellow students at the university and the reasons why he and Erdoğan don’t have any photos together from those years.

Can Dündar, a Turkish journalist living in exile, said sarcastically in a tweet on Thursday that imprisoned Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş was “more functional than Facebook in finding friends from university.”

He was referring to an article written by Demirtaş titled “President’s Diploma,” which was published on the Gazete Duvar news website on Sept. 19 and questioned in detail the reasons behind Erdoğan’s failure to prove the claims that he studied at Marmara University for fours years and graduated.

“Why hasn’t a single person come out and said, ‘We went to university together, we were in the same school, [or] we were in the same class’? Why hasn’t a single academic come out and said, ‘He was my student,’ or why didn’t you say ‘So-and-so is my professor from the university’?” were some of the questions Demirtaş directed at Erdoğan in the piece.

The claim that Erdoğan does not have a degree has long been discussed in Turkey. Marmara University had released a copy of Erdoğan’s diploma; however, the diploma caused more doubt. It named the “School of Business Administration” as the department Erdoğan graduated from; however, Erdoğan previously wrote in his CV that he graduated from the faculty of economics and commercial sciences.

Marmara University’s diploma inquiry system was shut down by court order on July 18, 2014, the year Erdoğan was first elected president. Despite challenges for Erdoğan to introduce his college classmates, none have materialized, while Erdoğan often refers to his high-school classmates.

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