Jailed Kurdish Politician Selahattin Demirtaş on Saturday joined the recent debate in Turkey about the authenticity of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s university degree with a witty message on Twitter.
Demirtaş, a former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), shared a photograph of a mock degree certificate on toilet paper, on which was written, “This person may have finished the course at the ‘economist’ department (or he may not)… – Marmara University of Strange Sciences”.
“We were wrong, friends, there is a genuine degree certificate!” Demirtaş tweeted with the photograph.
“If there hadn’t been one, everyone who involved in that crime would have been taken to court after the elections,” the politician said, referring to the people allegedly helping Erdoğan cover up the fact that he is not a university graduate. “Who could risk being involved in such a crime anyway?” Demirtaş added.
Erdoğan’s degree certificate has been a focal point in all presidential election campaigns since 2014, as the Turkish constitution requires a presidential candidate to hold a degree.
Erdoğan claims to hold a four-year degree in management from Marmara University’s Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences but many suspect this claim, saying that nobody has ever seen his original degree certificate.
The nine-year-long controversy of the degree certificate took an unexpected turn ahead of the coming 14 May election, after the former head of the Council of Higher Education Yusuf Ziya Özcan told reporters that he had searched for Erdoğan’s degree in the archives out of curiosity during his term in office, but had been unable to find it.
In answer to Özcan, the Hürriyet newspaper published what it claimed were Erdoğan’s temporary graduation document and his university degree certificate, saying that they had got the document from Fahrettin Altun, the head of media and communications at the Turkish presidential office.
Around the same time, Marmara University released a statement providing Erdoğan’s student number, the number of his temporary graduation document and the number of his degree certificate.
However, Turkey’s social media users were quick to notice that the number on the temporary graduation document provided by Altun was different from the number Marmara University had cited for the same document.
Meanwhile, some on social media also shared their own Marmara University degree certificates, issued around the same time, asking why Erdoğan’s certificate had a different format.
Marmara University on Sunday released a new statement to try and bring an end to the controversy, saying that at the time, two copies of the temporary graduation document had been issued, each with a different number, and that the number of the second copy had been written in error in their first statement.