The Turkish century!
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims that his governance has pushed the Turkish economy into the elite league of the world’s top (G-) 20. Few Turks know that the Turkish economy was in the top 20 before his party came to power, but Mr. Erdogan plays a very smart game: Make the Turks feel imperial again.
The industry manufacturing weapons, which has always miraculously appealed to the Turkish male heart, was the perfect start. We are to make our own fighter jet, drones, aircraft carriers, spaceships, tanks and even a missile with a range of 2,500 kilometers. All that would happen before we could design, develop and manufacture an all-Turkish car and while Turkish scientists were still debating how to produce an “Islamic bicycle” – probably a bicycle that refuses to pedal if the cyclist has drunk alcohol or eaten pork.
We do not yet have the world’s finest football teams like Barcelona and Manchester United, but we have a national carrier that sponsors both Barcelona and Manchester United.
But life is not about weapons and football only. The Turkish entertainment industry is now preparing to create a “Turkish Harry Potter,” as the news story happily heralded. The Turkish hero will probably be a 10-year-old child who attends the Hogwarts School of Imams with a quest to overcome the infidels.
A “Turkish Pirates of the Mediterranean” may soon follow, featuring naval adventures off Cyprus.
“Desperate Housewives” can be American but a smart producer can always think of a Turkish version: Desperate Foreign Ministers. It won’t be too long before a Turkish “As-Salaamu alaikum” replaces “Cheers” on world screens. We may not have been able to push a Turkish Rihanna onto the world stage yet, but we can always claim that Rihanna’s ancestors were in fact Turkish Muslims. But no, the obscene photos of the newly-wed members of the royal Turkish family will never fall into the public domain.
Twitter can be very fashionable, but who could say that by 2023 the will would not drop it for TRwitter, at the same time as the TurkPad marks the hegemony of Turkish science across the world?
Mr. Erdogan has already pushed the button to make Turkey a major world power by the year 2071, marking the millennium of the migration of Oghuz Turks into Anatolia and the Seljuk victory over the forces of the Byzantine Empire at the Battle of Manzikert (Malazgirt). To support the effort to make this a Turkish century, Mr. Erdogan’s culture minister, Ertugrul Gunay, has recently launched an aggressive campaign to reclaim the antiquities he claims belong to Turkey but were looted.
Ironically, the “Turkish artifacts” Mr. Gunay wants restituted include 6th century Byzantine silver items and a Cycladic marble sculpture. All the same, Mr. Gunay says that “when artifacts are repatriated the balance of nature will be restored.”
Could the culture minister have meant, for instance, Egypt’s Obelisque of Theodosius now standing at the heart of Istanbul? Or the Hagia Sophia mosque, created as the center of the Eastern Orthodox Church in the 4th century? Were these artifacts Turkish a few centuries before the Turks were preparing to invade Anatolia, and one millennium and a few centuries before they were preparing to celebrate 2071?
The idea of a “Turkish Harry Potter” is nice. But it could be more useful if the Turkish generals instead created a “Turkish Pentagon.” If only they could do that the Turkish invasion of Syria would be much smoother, as I think it would probably be a tougher job for the Turkish Army to reach Damascus riding Turkish-made Islamic bicycles.