Turkey and Erdogan’s Dream of Empire

By Arian Mufid:

Erdogan is going between west and east with his aggression. He looks at the past and thinks he can revive the Ottoman Empire in the region. What is going on in Turkey today is related to his personality and the way he was brought up in Turkey. This is a most important point which political observers are missing, concerning Erdogan and his personal life. In reality, he is not really Turkish and has got an identity problem because he originates from the Laz nation. The Laz people (Lazi) are an indigenous Kartvelian-speaking ethnic group inhabiting the Black Sea coastal regions of Turkey and Georgia. Estimates of the total population of the Laz people today vary drastically, from numbers as low as 150,000 to as high as 1 million people, with the majority living in northeast Turkey.

Erdogan has digested the roles of Turkey in the twentieth century and of the Ottoman Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. When he first became chairman of the AKP, he stated that he was impressed by the ideas of Sultan Saleem the First and, according to some historians, Erdogan suffers from some form of rare personality disorder, which is to enjoy degrading historical or world stage leaders. This point connects to the way Erdogan suffered as a child and was brought up. Erdogan thinks he is a great leader, and nobody can compete with him. If anyone listens to his speeches and analyses what he is saying, he comes across as an irrational person. Bear in mind that neither Hitler nor Stalin were born to rule. On the contrary, both had socially unprivileged upbringings and came from provincial backwaters. Stalin was born as Josif Jughshvili in Gori, Georgia and adopted his new, more dramatic nom de guerre (‘man of steel’) during his early career as a revolutionary activist and bank robber, whilst Hitler came from the Austro-Hungarian border town of Braunau am Inn and spent the years before 1914 as an unsuccessful artist working odd jobs. With Erdogan there wasn’t any history to indicate that he would be a great leader until he became prime minister and then president of Turkey.

Recently, the way he replied to President Macron of France following the slaughter of the teacher in Paris by an Islamic fundamentalist is indicative. He replied to Macron using the sort of language that is inappropriate for the president of a country like Turkey. The way Erdogan talks and responds does not look like a statesman or grown-up politician of this century; it is more impulsive, there is no respect or dignity in his responses when he talks to world leaders. The way he talks to Macron, President of France, tells you about the personality of the man and how paranoid he is these days. His objectives have progressed since the 1990s through the vehicle of political Islam. However, Erdogan has always had suspicious connections and alliances with extremist Islamist groups such as Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other fundamentalist groups in the region. It is probably worth heeding a historical warning from Kemal Ataturk, the Turkish nationalist leader who delivered the death blow in 1922 to the long reign of the Ottoman sultans. “The evils which had sapped the nation’s strength had all been wrought in the name of religion.”

Erdogan is playing his Islamic cards all the time. Only a few months ago he transformed a famous Church in Istanbul into a Mosque, inviting Hamas there for him to capitalise on the Palestinian cause. There are also his interventions in Syrian, Libya, and the Gulf States, and lately his intervention in Nagorno-Karabakh which threatens to repeat the genocide of the Armenian people. He wants to trade off the Islamic card. Erdogan pretends that he has succeeded on all these fronts, but he is emerging without any real gains – for example, in Libya. In Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia and China will not let him gain anything. The man is brilliant at playing the political market and playing with people’s futures and destinies, as he has done with the people in Syria. In 2012 and 2013, he told Syria that he was coming there and would do his Friday prayers in the Amaweeen Mosque, but in reality he accomplished nothing for Syria but to bring millions of them to Turkey, leaving them in tents as refugees and converting some of them as missionaries or mercenaries for use in Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh. Last week in Rass Ain, the Kurdish city invaded by Turkey this time last year, ISIS has raised their flags and burned French flags to annoy France. This happened under the protection of the Turkish occupation forces. Furthermore, Erdogan has an opportunist personality to the extent that he exhorts the Islamic brotherhood all over the world, including in the south of Kurdistan to boycott French goods and services. Erdogan did this to cover up his economic failures, at the same time as Saudi Arabia has banned all Turkish goods and imports in response to his intervention in Qatar. Macron in his speech was defending French values and the commitment to fundamental principles of freedom of speech, and so on, whilst a large section of the population of his country is Muslim, coming from different parts of the world.

The Turkish democratic movement needs to be supported in striving to limit the damage Erdogan is doing to Turkey internally and on the world stage. The international community needs to stop Erdogan from further aggression and hostile interventions in Turkey’s neighbouring countries.

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