Several women have met to chat in an apartment in the city of Kayseri, greeted at the entrance by lavishly framed verses from the Koran. Kayseri is located in the heartland of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). The pious women gathered in the living room are the base of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party. Over cups of sweet tea and cake, they share stories full of bitterness.
Kayseri is an historical trading center and a stronghold of Islamic conservatism. Giant posters of Mr. Erdogan line the road into the city center. In the last presidential election, almost 70 percent of the city voted for him.
We are traveling through Anatolia for a week to learn why so many Turks steadfastly support their president and how they will vote this Sunday in the referendum on the presidential system he is seeking to introduce. Our trip includes Kayseri where Mr. Erdogan’s most loyal supporters live, Sanliurfa on the border to Syria where the focus is on attracting Kurdish voters, and in the capital Ankara where, almost a century ago, the secular country was founded and whose constitution may undergo a radical change.