Sèvres serves Erdoğan

Sèvres serves Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to the United States was a tense one from the beginning. The question of whether he would meet U.S. President Barack Obama or not was a topic of discussion in Turkey.

The meeting was denoted as a victory. Headlines in Turkey outlined how long the meeting lasted: 50 precious minutes... Protests against Erdoğan were expected. His security team was shown battering a handful of protesters. As Erdoğan was visiting the U.S., he dominated headlines and articles. He has been criticized for his Syria policy and attitude toward freedom of press. The liberal West’s former Islamist democrat darling has turned into persona non grata today. 

Open letters to Erdoğan written by former diplomats, diplomats giving support to Turkish journalists by going to the court room and even the famous two-minute German video mocking Erdoğan that was broadcast on NDR on March 17 are not actually hurting Erdoğan or dissuading the Turkish people from Erdoğan. It is actually quite vice versa.

Turks and Iranians are quite alike on that matter. A deep suspicion toward foreigners, the belief that nobody desires the well-being of Turkey/Iran and the belief that enemies are right around the corner, waiting to attack at the most vulnerable moment, are more or less the common mindset. 

This was what was taught when I was at school: “Turkey is surrounded by enemies. Bulgaria wants to invade Thrace, Greece is after the Megali Idea, the Soviets and Iran aim to export their regimes to Turkey.” I remember reading similar sentences when I was studying at primary or secondary school. Not that I think as such – but I still remember what I was taught. When studying Turkey, one has to keep in mind this mindset all the time. 

When Erdoğan yelled at the diplomats who went to the court to support the journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, “Who are you, what the hell are you doing there?!” some Turkish people, probably the majority, didn’t see a tyrant who is the enemy of free press, they saw a strong leader defending his nation against nosy Westerners. 

Remember, the Turkish Republic is built on the discourse of the War of Liberation. The Treaty of Sèvres was signed by the victors of World War I. If the treaty had materialized, the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire would have commenced. The treaty never materialized, but rather led to the Turkish War of Independence. However the treaty still stands in the Turkish political mindset. Sèvres Paranoia dominates the majority’s political conscience.  

When the American ambassador stands up for a journalist, most Turks do not read this as an honorable stance for freedom. They question the “real” intentions of the U.S. This goes both for secularists and Islamists. There is no devotion to the West, rather there is the suspicion. 

In the last couple of years, Erdoğan has been outlining again and again “the second war of independence.”

He is not choosing words out of the blue; he is trying to conquer Turkish hearts and minds. He reminds the public that Turkey is surrounded by the enemies who are trying to divide and conquer!

As Erdoğan highlights the terms “independence,” the bashing from the West does not weaken him. Quite the opposite; it strengthens the bond between the government’s supporters, Erdoğan and his enclave.