President Erdoğan previously promised to release a new party manifesto at the Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Congress. He said the manifesto would outline a new map for Turkey, to lead the country into 2023, the hundredth year of the Turkish Republic.
Expectations were high, at least for myself. I expected something similar to the declaration of Khalifat or something regarding where the government is headed.
He did not declare Khalifat. Instead, he talked about how many buildings and bridges have been built in the last 20 years. It was far from exciting.
One thing, however, did grab my attention. He spoke about how the time was coming for Turkey to lead civilization. He said, Turkey should be prepared.
It is no secret that President Erdoğan is a big fan of the late-Ottoman Empire. Like many politicians from his school, he misses the ‘good ol’ days’ when the Ottomans used to lead the region.
In his speech, Erdoğan claimed the West was in a state of crisis regarding the future; because ‘the family’ was in decline. He then underlined why the preservation of family unit is very important for Turkey. He was essentially explaining why Turkey had retreated from the Istanbul Convention. But when he said it was Turkey’s turn the lead civilization, it did not seem like he was just parroting some fancy words to appease his radical base; I believe he truly believed what he said.
Turkish conservatives have this idea of a kind of a Turkish exceptionalism. They believe Turkey is entitled to be the greatest because of its past, and that it has not yet become the greatest because of the meddling of foreign powers. The idea relies on the paradigm that westernization stalled the Nation, which was otherwise perfect and superior.
Political Scientist Asude Kölemen, explains that, especially the “Büyük Doğu” (Great East) group, believes in the idea of a future in which Turkey would lead the world. They believed that the source of ethics and glory lies in Anatolia. Thus, that it has a legitimate claim to rule the world. Kölemen points out that in such rhetoric it is never explained how this idea will come to fruition; what sort of a power shift would happen and why it would happen. But is still believed to be certain. We cannot call it a theory, but it is a belief deeply intertwined with Turkish right.
Such ideas are often voiced by pro-government writer Alev Alatlı. Recently, she tweeted, if the world was led by the Ottoman Empire, there would be no wars, no starvation, etc. She often appears often on state TV shows to lecture on Turkey should be leading the world. She usually rants about the alleged decline of the West and the ethical superiority of Turkey.
It is also important to note that, many Turkish series are based on this idea. The latest state TV production, Teşkilat, is based on some made up stories about how the Turkish secret service meddles with the evil plans of evil countries that are trying to prevent Turkey from reaching its greatest potential. Most series, which are about the Ottomans, are also full of rants about how it is the divine right of the Turks to rule.
Such ideas are not new. Back in the 40s, the world suffered the consequences of such delusions. I hope history will not repeat itself. Unfortunately, this idea of divinely-given Turkish superiority is being fed to the public 24/7.