What Tayyib Erdogan is poised to do after the expiration of treaty of laussane by 2023? Is he really endeavoring to resurrect ottoman caliphate? Almost every political discourse, nowadays, led by political luminaries, spin doctors and academicians, revolves around such questions. The whole world is curious to learn what Turkey under the auspices of its ambitious leader Erdogan is likely to do beyond 2023. Further, to intensify the apprehensions of the foes of Turkey, exceedingly popular Turkish drama Series “Dirilis: Ertugrul” premised on the history of Ottoman Empire and patronized by the Erdogan administration, has also sent shock waves across the world for the drama is an implicit move of Turkish authorities to rejuvenate the struggle for reclaiming the ottoman empire.
So far as Erdogan’s ambition to revive Ottoman Empire is concerned, it is quite evident through his policies as well as orientations that he is paving the way to reclaim Ottoman Empire by hook or crook no sooner does the treaty of Lausanne go dead by 2023. Although denied, during teething period of his political ascent, his aspiration to re-install ottoman state, his recent inflammatory rhetoric and aggressive policies towards opposition, neighboring states and international powers vividly reveal his desire to assume the title of “ New sultan” or “ Caliph” in neo-ottoman dispensation.
To translate his dream into a reality, Erdogan has taken myriad endogenous and exogenous measures that clearly reflect his aggressive policy and passion to regain lost glory of Muslims by breathing into a dead Empire. His bid to do so is conspicuous in his move of dismantling and restructuring of the Turkish identity through invoking the manifestations and symbols of the Ottoman heritage. Alongside, his domestic re-engineering, He has also adopted hegemonic and expansionist policies with the aim of reproducing the “Ottoman colonization” era in the Middle East region.
Let’s analyze how Erdogan is flattening the ground locally and internationally for the erection of neo-ottoman Empire.
Domestically, Erdogan knew that without consolidating his power, it was almost impossible to put his brilliant brainchild of re-building ottoman caliphate into a practice. He, therefore, realizing this undeniable fact, resumed consolidating his power. To this end, he transformed Turkish political outlook from parliamentary to presidential one that, for sure, gave him absolute powers at par with that of king or Sultan. Abdul Rehman Dilliak , a Turkish thinker affiliated with Erdogan’s regime, opined that the transformation of Turkey’s presidential dispensation will allow Turkey to turn into a caliphate state, Erdogan to caliph of Muslims, and will culminate into opening representative offices of the ottoman Islamic caliphate at his palace.
In addition, following the footprints of sultans of Ottoman Empire, Erdogan has left no stone unturned to crush dissention. He employs the Ottoman legacy as a repressive tool to eliminate political opponents, seeking to put forward an ideology that is diametrically different from Kemal’s secularism (Mustafa Kemal Ataurk). Erdogan attempts to do this through implementation of social re-engineering tactics to influence the population to restore the Ottoman values and practices as part of the collective memory. This ensures his political hegemony and the exclusion of opponents, since he is part of the “Ottoman Sultans”, for whom the term “opposition” was not in the lexicon of their administration.
He, therefore, to keep the dissent voices at bay, arrested a large number of opponents after the failed military coup attempt in July 2016. The political crackdown included dismissal of state employees, police and military officers, restructuring the administrative apparatus of the state, domination over the judiciary, consolidating his power; making Erdogan all in all by concentrating all legislative, executive and judicial powers into his hands.
Inter alia, Erdogan, indubitably, is a man of unprecedented political acumen. He knows that without giving his regime a religious tint, he would not be able to embark at his destination. Hence, he is employing all of his occupied resources to morph secular turkey into an Islamized dispensation. For justification of all of his just or unjust moves, he constantly takes refuge in Islamic cocoon. In his bid to Islamize turkey, he has made religious education mandatory in Turkish schools which, off course, confirm his intention to disinter ottomanism.
Moreover, in order to re-build the image of grandeur, magnificence and splendor that Ottoman Empire epitomized, among his countrymen and in the world, Erdogan seeks to revive the historic and architectural patrimony of the Ottoman Empire. In July 2016, for example, Erdogan announced his intention to reconstruct some military barracks in Istanbul and to demolish the Ataturk Cultural Center, stating: “We will reconstruct the historic Taksim military barracks in Istanbul’s Gezi Park, whether they like it or not,” defying the opposition of many Turkish citizens.
Further, In August 2016, he renamed the largest bridge on the Bosphorus in Istanbul “Selim I”, amid intense opposition from Shi’ite Alawis in Turkey, due to historical hostility between Sultan Selim I and Shi’ites.
Erdogan is also keen to use Ottoman Empire-inspired symbols in all the details of daily life. For example, he appeared in a photo posted on Twitter in November 2017, with the banner of the 57th Ottoman Army division in front of him.
In addition, he appeared in more than one official occasion – such as during his reception of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in January 2015- accompanied by contingent dressed in Ottoman warriors’ attires and carrying flags of 16 countries founded by the Ottomans. This component was added to the formal parades on a permanent basis. MP of Balikesir city from the Justice and Development Party posted a photo in which Erdogan was surrounded by soldiers and commented by saying: “The 90-year-long Ottoman caliphate’s advertising break is over”.
Further to say is that Erdogan authorized the teaching of the Ottoman language in schools, announcing in December 2014 that “Teaching of the Ottoman language will inevitably be implemented…whether they like it or not.” He also slammed those who oppose the move, describing them as the greatest danger, believing that that move will protect the identity of the state till the day of resurrection.
Moreover, on advice of Erdogan, In January 2015, AKP members of parliament put forward a bill calling for the adoption of the Ottoman Empire “tughra” as the official emblem of the Turkish nation, which had been abolished in 1922 after the fall of the Ottoman caliphate. The Constitutional Affairs Committee of the Turkish National Assembly agreed on this proposal notwithstanding the opposition of the MPs. This too corroborates the fact that Erdogan is aggressively pursuing his latent agenda of ottomanization.
To add, the most appalling and terrifying aspect of Erdogan’s scheme for his foes is his move to develop a new army named as “The new Janisaries,” at par with that of “old Janisaries” under ottoman rule, exclusively tailored to effect the idea of neo-ottoman empire. For example, leaks reported by the Turkish media and published by Fouad Avni, known as the “Snowden of Turkey” in January 2017, said that the SADAT International Defense Consultancy Inc, founded by Adnan Tanriverdi, Erdogan’s advisor, is training young men from the Justice and Development Party on fighting.
As mentioned earlier, Erdogan also encourages Turkish series and movies that show events dating back to the Ottoman era, one manifestation of this support was his visit, in November 2016, to the locations of the scenes of the “Diriliş: Ertugrul,” a series about the historical founders of the Ottoman state.
By resorting to such moves, Erdogan is playing very smartly. By adhering to the Ottoman principles and fanaticism of the Ottoman State, its history and symbols, Erdogan wants to send an implicit message that he is the legitimate heir of the Ottoman caliphate; a matter has been repeatedly highlighted by the AKP’s media. For example, pro-Erdogan newspapers put his portrait next to the image of Sultan Abdulhamid II, one of the strongest Ottoman sultans.
Externally, Erdogan thinks that the Ottoman legacy gives the Turkish nation a historic right to regional hegemony and to represent the Muslim world. Thus, Erdogan sees his meddling in the Arab countries, deploying military forces in Syria and Iraq, his support of extremist religious organizations in the Arab states as part of the “imperial policy” that reinforce his colonial vision of the Turkish role in the Middle East.
Erdogan has pursued regional expansion through constant interference in the affairs of other countries. His speeches reveal his attempts to interfere in the sovereignty of neighboring countries. He tends to use an aggressive tone towards those whom he deems as “regional adversaries” of Turkey’s hegemony.
To add, regional expansionism is not limited to only fiery rhetoric, as Turkey has backed extremist religious movements in several regional states and has provided them shelter , sums and media platforms to promote their ideas.
In the same regard, Turkey has engaged in direct military interventions in Syria and Iraq. It maintains a number of military bases in various countries, including: Qatar, Northern Cyprus, Syria, and Azerbaijan, where it built its first military base in the latter in November 2017, and plans to build another eight military bases. All these factors clearly insinuate that Turkey is re-asserting herself as emerging regional hegemonic power.
To sum it up, in the light of preceding discussion, it can safely be concluded that Erdogan is aggressively pursuing his mission to re-install Ottoman Empire. He would, for sure, re-double his efforts to this end after the expiration of treaty of Lausanne by 2023. If the things go as planned, the world is likely to face a novel geopolitical reality that warrants pro-active measures to be taken not only by international organizations for peace and security but also by the countries which are going to bear the burnt of this formidable geopolitical metamorphosis .