Andreas C Chrysafis
There are alarming developments that Turkey may become the next unstable country in the region with messy consequences. Primarily, there are two reasons for that: the twenty five million persecuted ethnic and stateless Kurdish people that seek autonomy; and the Erdogan regime transforming the country into a theocratic state.
In fact, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is on the war-path to oust anyone that disagrees with his despotic rule – the latest victim being none other than his Prime Minister Davudoglu who was forced to resign and replaced by his close friend Mr. Binali Yildirim. His autocratic conduct supported by AKP party and security forces has the elements of a new dictator in the making, so reminiscent of dictators such as: Saddam Hussein, Colonel Gadhafi and Ceausescu.
Is this schizophrenic behaviour by the Ankara regime intentional or a cunning plan of things to come? Most probably both…
In hindsight, secularism has been the cornerstone of modern Turkey that brought prosperity to the people but Erdogan’s Neo-Ottomanism it’s about to change all that. There are volatile indications that the country may regress into a situation that could actually break up altogether.
Single-handedly, Erdogan has managed to create enemies across the region and has also triggered a rift between Turkey and Russia; the latter has now cut off the flow of gas into Turkey but has also cancelled mega-projects worth billions of dollars and issued a trade and tourist embargo. Ankara’s recent plea to renew the relationship has been utterly ignored by Vladimir Putin. As an ally, Russia feels “backstabbed” by Turkey and it’s not prepared to play cloak and dagger Ottoman games with Erdogan.
It appears that Turkey’s policies are by no means rational, but nothing is rational with Erdogan’s plans! His ambition is to change the Turkish constitution and name himself president for life! He envisions reigning over a new Islamic state with an iron fist and perhaps to name it “Erdoganistan”, in keeping with his 1000-room White Palace.
The Speaker of the Turkish Parliament Ismail Kahraman announced that Turkey being a Muslim country should have a constitution based on Islam rather that Western-style secularism. In fact, the ruling AKP Party wants to get rid of Kemalism ideology altogether and replace it with a theocratic Islamic law. “Secularism would not have a place in a new constitution,” Kahraman declared.
When that happens, it would be the end of secular Turkey; Islamism would then play a major role in government policies!
As it happens, religion has become the new flavour of the times and it is used systematically to influence the minds of the people and the feeble.
When a president like Erdogan enters into people’s bedrooms and decrees that it’s a sin for Muslim women not to have three children each, it shows that theocracy now has an oppressive role to play in Turkish society. When the same president demands that Turkish nationals in Germany and elsewhere should not marry non-Muslims because it’s “unturkishness” then one can see that such distorted views by a leader has the elements of ethno-racism.
A regime based on misogyny with an ingrained prejudice against women is no different from the tyrannical culture of ISIS, Al-Qaida and others. They all rely on an army of snoopers, security forces and “morality police” roaming the streets to report and crack down on improper veiling, dress code and any signs of dissent.
Consequently, when religious fanaticism stirs up the darker side of radical nationalism, diplomacy and logic does not work!
Erdogan’s latest frenzy authorizing readings of the Quran at Hagia Sophia in Constantinople is by no means a co-incidence but a prime example of a zealous religious extremism if not terrorism. It was a well-planned move sending a message to Muslim nations that Christians and their shrines have no place in a Muslim world.
Such decision has no other purpose but the transformation of this world-symbol of Christianity into a mosque. Verses from the Islamic sacred book will be read daily during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan and be broadcasted live on Turkish state religious channel TRT Diyanet and heard throughout the country.
At the news of the desecration of Hagia Sophia world leaders across the world were shocked, prompting the US State Department’s deputy spokesperson Mark Toner to respond, “We recognize Hagia Sophia as a site of extraordinary significance and we would encourage Turkey to preserve Hagia Sophia in a way that respects its tradition and also its complex history”. The State Duma’s MP Sergei Gavrilov said: “The Russian side deems it possible to return Hagia Sophia to the hands of the Orthodox church of Constantinople.”
An irate Greek Foreign Ministry stated, “Obsessions, venting on bigotry, with Muslim rituals in a monument of world cultural heritage are incomprehensible and reveal lack of respect for and connection with reality and are not compatible with modern, democratic and secular societies.”
There was hardly any public condemnation coming from the EU, UN or the Cyprus government. The latter is hoping to make a deal with Turkey this year to “resolve” the Cyprus issue and spinelessly decided not to offend the Erdogan regime.
As it happens, Ankara’s disrespect of Christian churches is not so unique to Hagia Sophia because the Turkish Cypriot leadership has also announced a similar decree. Christian churches in the occupied area of Cyprus are prohibited to hold services except once a year on specific religious dates such as Christmas and Easter.
Compare Hala Sultan Tekke (Mosque of Umm Haram) on the banks of Larnaca Salt Lake in Cyprus and the results are very different.
Umm Haram and prophet Muhammad’s wet nurse is buried there making the site a most sacred site for all Muslims throughout the world. The well-maintained and beautiful shrine is always open to all faiths where busloads of Muslims arrive each day to hold prayers without a hindrance or animosity about religious differences but instead, they display an ethnic camaraderie that proves religions should not be a reason to divide but to unite people in respect of one another’s faith.
That’s the kind of a cunning Turkish mentality Greek Cypriots are faced with believing that Turkey may decide to behave honorably. Under that presumption, the charade of talks are continuing for a “Cyprus solution” based on a Bi-Zonal, Bi-Communal Federation; a Federation that has more holes than a water strainer!
But, no matter what happens next one thing is for certain: starting with the desecration of Hagia Sophia, the biggest crime committed against Hellenism and Orthodox Christianity would soon reveal its true but ugly face! By then it may well be too late…
Andreas C Chrysafis
June 17, 2016