This is a brilliant piece by Turkish writer Yavuz Baydar, published in, in Ahval, on Erdogan’s intention after converting Hagia Sophia to a mosque. Republished here with permission.
(Photo via Ahval)
A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of Turkish expansionism, set in motion by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Islamist government and its ultra-nationalist allies stakeholding his iron rule. All the powers of old Europe, with the exception of France, have entered into a holy alliance to duck this spectre: the EU and ECB, Germany’s Angela Merkel and the U.K.’s Boris Johnson, Italy’s Giuseppe Conte and Spain’s Pedro Sanchez, The European Commission’s Ursula von de Leyen and the EU’s Josep Borrell, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights and NATO.
I have rephrased the famous introduction to Communist Manifesto, to underline the magnitude of the current and massively underestimated drama, of which Turkey is at the epicentre.
A militarised regime is taking shape in Anatolia as the world watches on at the expense of the well being of Turkish people. This regime is pursuing an expansionist order determined to stretch the country’s legal borders by means of a brute force.
If you think the recent reconversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque – a sad affair even in defiance of the verses of holy Quran – is just about the 6th century iconic site, think again.
The groundbreaking decision by the Erdoğan – Bahçeli alliance on the monument is only one major stone laid on the path to their plans pertaining to the centennial of Turkish Republic in 2023. Theirs is part of a major political choreography, based on bringing out of Pandora’s Box the ghosts of wars of the past. Let the borders of modern Turkey, drawn after the WWI go up for debate again and let the so-called National Pact (Misak-ı Milli), which is about reclaiming lands that now belong to Turkey’s southern and western neighbours, be brought to life, this alliance says.
The fact that the AKP cadres and pundits unleashed damnations and curses on the Lausanne Treaty even before the dust had settled on the Hagia Sophia reopening ceremony on Friday should be a wake up call for the world. That is if anyone is paying any attention to the constant escalation of the internal power rhetoric in Turkey.
It wasn’t a coincidence that Erdoğan and Bahçeli chose a specific date for the Hagia Sophia cemenony: The anniversary of the Lausanne Treaty, which was signed on July 24, 1923. So, it isn’t a puzzle anymore when Turks – in sympathy or opposition to the strongman of their country – kept hearing the phrase, ”a historic parenthesis that must be closed”. The parenthesis is the history of Turkish Republic, as envisioned and launched by its founding father, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Opening the gates of Hagia Sophia as a mosque at the same time paves the way for such a closure.
This path was already opened by the murky coup attempt of July 15, 2016, followed by a massive coup by Erdoğan, the declaration of a state of emergency, five days later. Ever since then, the construction of the new regime has been taking place with an uninterrupted series of decrees, decisions, alliances and arbitrary rulings.
The rapid escalation of moves in foreign policy is also a major part of the grand design. Operations into Iraqi Kurdistan are aimed at establishing a permanent zone, with more bases. In Syria, the steady military build-up points to the same ambition. But the real push of the regime, including in the oil rich war-torn country of Libya, is visible within Ankara’s so-called Blue Homeland doctrine, now in the stage of determined implementation.
Deeply discontent with the EU’s foot-dragging on Turkey’s decade-long accession process, using the botched coup as a pretext for all thing anti-Western, and seeing a great window of opportunity in a world of disorder, Erdoğan and his partner, Bahçeli, apparently see the revisiting of the Lausanne Treaty as very timely. The geometrically growing rift with Greece and Cyprus over the hydrocarbon sources and naval borders must also be seen in that context, in order to be correctly understood.
Does history repeat itself? A comparison between the German resentment of the Versailles Treaty, that ended the WWI in 1919, and the Erdoğan government’s bullying push to create the same sort of sentiments among Turks across the political spectrum may sound far-fetched, but is actually quite accurate.
Many observers outside Turkey seem unable to see the big picture, and if they ever did, they would easily detect an identical myth-building taking shape in Turkey, like Germany’s ”dolchstosslegende,” stab-in-the-back myth.
Its first discreet missives are already in the air through social media and pro-government columns, as Hagia Sophia opens as a mosque.
According to the stab-in-the-back myth, the German right claimed that Germany actually did not lose WWI, but was betrayed at the table by the civilian leaders. Similarly in Turkey, we are bound to hear more and more that Turkey did not lose WW either. Just look at Gallipoli and the Liberation War between 1919-22 – it was the Turkish delegation guided by Atatürk, who fitted Turkey with ”the strait jacket called the Lausanne Treaty”.
The fact of the matter is that this notion, in a historically bizarre twist, unites Turkey’s Islamists, a large portion of secular nationalists hostile to the EU and the United States, the extreme-right and ”Grey Wolves”, Pan-Turanians, and ex-officers who once were Erdoğan’s sworn enemies and prisoners, who nowadays remain at his service through offering Blue Homeland doctrine.
One can see similarities with 1930’s Germany, whose mixed political constellations against the Versailles Treaty gave birth to Hitler and his monster regime.
So, we are faced with the spectre in Turkey today, but the European apathy to what is taking place in the country is astonishing. The main reason for what will surely develop into a new European folly is clear: Behind closed doors, major EU representatives agree that Erdoğan regime is lesser of two evils. If Erdoğan’s fall will wreak havoc in Turkey, they maintain, incomparable to what happened to the former Yugoslavia, causing millions of Turks to flee west on to EU soil.
So, the Erdoğan regime is considered ”fine,” as it offers stability, even though the entire country -(to quote the main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroglu – is ”an open-air prison.”
Thus, let us remain paralysed, they say, while they continue to appease Erdoğan, pretending everything is just fine. And let us watch, as Turkish irredentism gets ready to challenge the international order in the Eastern Mediterranean through militarised foreign policy.
We know what the German resentment to Versailles Treaty did to the world, and it is now time to once again fasten our seatbelts.
Let us start studying what Lausanne Treaty was about, as we will need the information. Turkey’s political system is no longer on which we are familiar with. It has changed. Its motto ”peace at home peace abroad” is history, with the word ”peace” being replaced by ”war.” Just so you know.