Surrounded by Ottoman soldiers, Erdoğan toughens rhetoric against New York Times
The 478-man “Conquest Unit” formed by the Turkish Armed Forces on Erdoğan's order to participate in the event marking the 562nd anniversary of the Turks’ conquest of Istanbul included Janissary soldiers.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has slammed the New York Times for the third time in a week.
"This newspaper had once called Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid an 'absolute monarch.' And today it directs to the Republic of Turkey and me the hate that it once directed to the Ottoman state," Erdoğan said at the May 30 event in Istanbul marking the 562nd anniversary of the Turks’ conquest of Istanbul.
Erdoğan was referring to the U.S. daily's reports on Turkey's Young Turk Revolution in 1908, which restored the Ottoman constitution of 1876, ending Sultan Abdulhamid's rule with an iron fist. "Abdul Hamid's reign as an absolute monarch is over. The forces of the Constitutionalists are in full possession of the capital after fierce fighting following an attack which began about 5 o'clock this morning, and in which the attacking troops used artillery," an NYT report had said on April 25, 1909.
As the June 7 general elections approach, Erdoğan has toughened his rhetoric against critical voices in the Turkish media, as well international outlets. Most recently, he slammed the New York Times during rallies on May 25 and May 26, over its May 22 editorial that criticized his “long history of intimidating and co-opting the Turkish media.”
In his May 30 speech, Erdoğan pointed finger at the family owning the New York Times, claiming that the U.S. daily is "close to the Armenian lobby and has recently started to engage in a cooperation with Pennsylvania," referring to the Pennsylvania-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, his erstwhile ally.
Hundreds of thousands of people flocked to Istanbul's Yenikapı Square, turning the event a political tour de force a week before the general election. A new ceremonial brigade, the 478-man “Conquest Unit” that was formed by the Turkish Armed Forces on Erdoğan's order, was present at the event, dressed as Ottoman soldiers. They were joined by an 84-men Ottoman military band, known in Turkish as the “Mehter."
After slamming a group of Turkish intellectuals who endorsed the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Erdoğan said that he and his supporters "will not change their position."
"Our nation has a saying for such occassions. Those who eat the bread of the foreigner also swing the sword of the foreigner," he said, advising the youth to be like Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, who conquered Istanbul in 1453 when he was only 21.
The 4,709 square-meter poster at the square, featuring Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who also attended the event, entered the Guinness Book of World Records, according to Anadolu Agency.
Here is the Doğan News Agency's aerial footage of Yenikapı Square on May 30: