TURKEY – “Ottoman” after Abdülhamid; Turkey after Erdoğan


It was always there, rose so high in the past couple of years but nowadays, admiration to Ottoman Empire has almost peaked in Turkey.

“Ottoman” is everywhere.

Its name is constantly mentioned in television, in the news, it is being discussed in TV programs. Most watched TV series are telling stories from the Ottoman history. Each TV series about Ottoman history is breaking ratings record. The TV series, telling the story of Ertugrul, the father of the founder of the Ottoman dynasty, has been broadcast on TV channel of the state and breaking rating records for years.

If you recently have visited Istanbul, somewhere, you would have run across the commercials of new TV series telling Mehmed II who conquered Istanbul. At subway trains, buses, billboards, he is everywhere. Moreover, there is a TV series which is also being broadcast on the TV channel of the state and tells the story of Abdülhamid II, one of the last sultans of the Ottoman Empire. It is high-rated as well.

Especially, Abdülhamid II is on the agenda lately.

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Because he practiced Islamic unity policy and tried to use the title “Caliph” actively against European powers, besides being admired by religious and conservative political circles for years, for now, he is a proper propaganda tool for the foreign policy that Turkish government is trying to implement. And even for internal affairs…

The religious conservative political party (Justice and Development Party – AKP), which has been ruling Turkey for 15 years, decided to cooperate for the elections with the nationalist conservative party (Nationalist Movement Party), whose roots reach out till ‘60s and for this “alliance” they passed the necessary laws from the parliament. Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) had been an opposing party against Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for years.

Some statements that the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party said about Erdoğan were so harsh that a person who doesn’t understand politics would be surprised how come these people kept together. The secret is that Erdoğan left the policy of “peace” that embrace the Kurds which he pursued since he came to power. Instead, he has clearly been pursuing an “anti-Kurd” policy for the last couple of years. Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, is so satisfied with this situation and without caring to be ridiculed for the words he said about Erdoğan in the past, he gives him full support.

The coalition of AKP-MHP is not actually just an alliance for the elections; it is the messenger of a religious and highly conservative future that Turkey is heading for. The military operation in Afrin is feeding the extreme nationalist mood in the country as well. Turkish Armed Forces, along with Free Syrian Army, is proceeding in the lands that were “Ottoman” 100 years ago and lost 100 years ago.

Even though the operation is not completed, proceeded so slow in the beginning, Turkey is already in the mood of victory and conquest. Statements such as “Turkey can’t fit into its borders anymore that imposed upon it 100 years ago” are constantly heard from the proponents of the government.

In this process, President Tayyip Erdoğan is being identified with the Ottoman sultans too.

Actually, Erdoğan especially made his rule such a position with the things he did to silence his opponents during “the state of emergency” which began to be implemented after the coup attempt in 2016, 15th of July and probably will continue for long years, it is not wrong to compare this to a “one-man rule” in other words to “monarchy”.

For worse, Erdoğan dragged Turkey into a position that it is not possible for Turkey to pursue its current foreign policy without him. Because the handled policy doesn’t belong to Turkey, it belongs to Erdoğan. If Erdoğan loses the elections and government changes, it is impossible for Turkey to pursue a sectarian militarist foreign policy based on religion just like now. Without him, could the standing economy continue standing with the hot money flow thanks to his relations with Qatar? Or without Erdoğan, would it trigger a big financial crisis? In other words, Erdoğan could have turned Turkey into a state that couldn’t survive without him.

Abdülhamid II, who didn’t carry out the constitutional legitimacy that he declared and ruled the country for 30 years alone, is a sultan who is liked and praised by Erdoğan himself. One of the most stereotype sentences said for years to praise him is that: “He ascended to the throne during decline and downfall of the Ottoman Empire and ruled the state alone without losing any land for 33 years.” Even this sentence is added: “After he had been deposed, the state fell down in 10 years.

True, Abdülhamid really protected his state with the balance policy he practiced. But those who praise him don’t realize that the sentence to praise him was telling his failure. Abdülhamid II was dethroned in 1909 and Ottoman Empire de facto fell in 1918, the year he died (he had spent the rest of his life in room confinement). So, the order he ruled for 33 years, couldn’t endure for even 10 years after him.

Historians, who support the present conservative government, tell that Ottoman Empire was ended by the wrong decisions made those who deposed Abdülhamid II and blame them. However, they ignore that panislamism policy that Abdülhamid tried to implement, failed in the test it entered in the First World War. Abdülhamid, indeed, ruled his country without losing nearly any land for 30 years. But, he just postponed the dissolution of his country, couldn’t find a solution to hold the country together, just saved the day.

Apparently, Erdoğan will take control of whole of Afrin (Syria) by making USA to approve what he wants by the support he took from Putin and will get a close result to what he desires for Manbij as well. He will be re-elected as President in 2019 by turning his military success in Afrin to votes in elections too. The devout and nationalist society that he shapes, will both ensure to make him remain in power and a successor from his family will take his place after his death. Supposing that everything happened as Erdoğan desired, then what?

Today, the extreme Turkish nationalist policy that Erdoğan and his partners implement, is killing day by day the desire “to live as a Kurd in Turkey” that Kurds sincerely adopted a couple of years ago.

The message given to Kurds is simply like: “If you want to be a Kurd, you must establish Kurdistan. You can not be a Kurd in Turkey.”

The only weapon at Erdoğan’s hand against that is religion and sectarianism.

He believes that devout Sunni Kurds will continue to support him, will never incline to a secular-feminist organization like PKK. The elections in the next year will show how right he is about his thought. As some pessimist opponents estimate, unless there would be full-scale rigs in favor of the ruling party in the elections while the state of emergency is going on, AKP might see the lowest percentage of votes in southeastern Turkey in those elections since it was founded.

The media which support Erdoğan, will announce that the government achieved a great success by getting rid of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is seen as the extension of PKK in Syria, from the west of Euphrates River. On the other hand, if there was a secular government in power instead of AKP, it would have fought the ISIS when ISIS threatened the tomb of Suleyman Shah, a land of Turkey, instead of ripping the tombs and fleeing, and the great part of the lands both eastern and western side of the Euphrates River controlled by Syrian Democratic Forces today, would have been under control of Turkey.

Even beforehand, Turkey could have entered Syria to save Kurds in Kobanî, could both have prevented PYD to dominate in eastern Syria and as “the savior of the Kurds” he could have ensured the Kurds in Turkey to be tied to Turkey from the heart even more. Instead of those options, Erdoğan chose to get personal gain by doing illegal oil trade with ISIS!

Putin seems to continue supporting the actions of Erdoğan in Syria to move Turkey away from USA even more. Bashar al-Assad condones this policy of Putin “compulsorily”. Maybe, Assad sees Erdoğan as a temporary ally against USA and PYD and secretly wants his existence in Syria as well.

Under these circumstances, Erdoğan’s Turkey will eventually succeed in preventing PYD to dominate in the west of Euphrates River. However, the ultimate purpose of USA might be to make it difficult for Turkey to achieve its destination and to force Turkey to approve the permanent existence of PYD in the east of the Euphrates River.

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For the next few years, extreme nationalism dominating Turkish politics would cause suppression and fear to be only things to tie Kurds in Turkey to Turkey.

The inevitable result of such policy is that the Kurds would see the first moment as a chance to secede when Turkey is powerless in military forces.

Today, while the red line which is unacceptable for nationalist Turks is the Kurdish dominance in the west of the Euphrates River in Syria; for Turkish nationalist’s future, the red line might be the Kurdish dominance in the west of Euphrates River in Turkey!

After the end of 30 year-rule of Erdoğan, if Turkey is divided with a civil war in 10 years, the reason of it would be today’s extreme nationalism. But, even in that kind of situation, the devout, nationalist and conservative Turkish historians of the future would say for Erdoğan that “he prevented Turkey to be divided and to lose land during his 30 years of rule. Those who succeed him, everything is their fault.”


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Mustafa Ömer Kafkas

1 Comment

  1. neo-ottoman TV series have a mass success non only in Turkey but also in the Arab world and in Eastern Europe up to the Baltic Sea ! From Algeria up to Poland and Russia streets are empty when the sery “Suleyman” or other start… And we have to ask why. The only series that were competitive to the Turkish ones, were the Syrian ones …before 2011. One of the reason Erdogan wanted to destroy its neighbor and its “pan-Arabic historical dream” ???

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