Religious sect destroyed Turkish president’s university degree, journalist claims

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s university degree, which he needs to stand in June 24 presidential elections, was destroyed by members of a religious sect, pro-government journalist Cemil Barlas claimed, in a programme at the A Haber news channel.

Controversy over the president’s university degree has reignited in recent weeks as the country heads towards presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24. Uncertainty over whether Erdoğan graduated from university – a requirement for becoming president - erupted in 2014 when Erdoğan first stood for the post.

According to Erdoğan’s official biography, he graduated from Marmara University's Economic and Commercial Sciences Faculty in 1981. However, according to Marmara University’s web site the faculty was not established until 1982. No evidence of the university degree has yet been presented by either the president, or the university.

The Gülen movement was behind the missing document, Barlas claimed. The followers of the U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gülen, were once allies of Erdoğan’s government, but the two wings of Turkish Islamism fell out in 2013. The government now calls the movement the Fethullahist Terror Organisation (FETÖ) and says it carried out the 2016 coup attempt.

"It’s evident that these members of FETÖ somehow obtained Tayyip Erdoğan’s original diploma and destroyed it,’’ Barlas said. He had, however, no evidence to substantiate his claims.