In modern neo-Ottoman Turkey, government officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ministers, make statements with complete contempt for international and European Union law while dissenting voices are silenced or persecuted. In the country today, there is a hysteria for new conquests and a disrespect for international law and fundamental ethics. The spirit of conquest is dominant in the modern Turkish political scene and their regional interventions. Rooted in the Ottoman “law of the sword” – or the idea that the conqueror can rule a conquered country or territory according to his desires – Turkey has returned to its Ottoman ambitions.
One of these dissenting voices that has now been silenced is that of Burak Bekdil, who in his latest article for the Gatestone Institute focused on the hypocrisy and arrogance of modern Turkey following Erdogan’s comments during the celebrations of the fall of Constantinople where the leader lauded past conquests and referenced “many more happy conquests” in the future.
Bekdil, a well-known journalist, was fired from Turkey’s leading newspaper after 29 years for this article titled “Erdogan wishes Turkey ‘many more happy conquests.’”
The question posed by the now-persecuted journalist is straight forward: What are these non-Turkish countries and territories that Erdogan expects to conquer? As the journalist stressed, the prevailing distortion and arrogance in contemporary Turkish politics is based on the Ottoman law of the sword.
The spirit of conquest is dominant in the modern Turkish political scene and infects daily life within and outside of Turkey, and is visible in attacks on churches and cemeteries, forced disappearances, torture, murders, imprisonment and persecution. Such crimes are brushed over by the Turkish state as Erdogan controls the courts and criminals are easily acquitted, with some becoming national heroes. Under the same hypocrisy and arrogance, other ethnic groups and non-Muslims are purged, and churches turned into mosques. The depredation of property – a criminal act by all means – if committed in the name of conquest is hailed as a heroic achievement. In fact, in the Turkish educational system, there is a special celebration for the conquests.
Conquest and arrogance are at the core of Turkey’s current regional endeavors, including sending fighters and weapons to Libya, despite the UN Security Council arms embargo and condemnation from the EU and NATO.
Incidentally, the ethnic cleansing of Kurdish and other populations in the Turkish-occupied Afrin region of Syria, is being implemented forcibly by the law of the sword. Such crimes of conquest, ethnic cleansing and colonization continue unpunished in Cyprus, while new illegal actions are underway in the Cyprus Exclusive Economic Zone, the Aegean, and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Before this neo-Ottoman law of the sword, the prevailing political perception in the EU is that dialogue should prevail. But in Turkey, the neo-Sultan and his ideology advance. As history repeats itself, very few are learning from it.
Costas Mavrides is a Member of European Parliament and Chair of the Political Committee of the Mediterranean.