April 17, 2018
The difference between Ataturk, who was a Turkish supremacist, and Erdogan, who is also a Turkish supremacist, is simply that Erdogan wants to revive the Ottoman imperial ambitions of the past.
Before the Turkish invasions, Asia Minor was Christian Byzantium
By David Semple
Anatolia was an advanced civilization long before the Turkish conquest. Indeed, the people who today call themselves Turks are not the indigenous people of Anatolia. They are descendants of invading barbarians who destroyed the last remnants of the Byzantine Empire almost six hundred years ago. The indigenous people of Anatolia were Aeolian and Ionian Greeks and Armenians, who lived there over three thousand years ago. Assyrians conquered the country for six hundred years which ended in the 7th century BCE.
Conquest by the Persian Achaemenid Empire came next. Alexander the Great restored Greek rule three centuries later at the end of the Greco-Persian Wars in 334 BCE and began a process of Hellenization which survived for almost two millennia. The first Roman Empire replaced the Greek Empire, after which Emperor Constantine made Byzantium the capital of what is commonly called the Second Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire. Constantinople, the new name for Byzantium, became the capital of an Orthodox Christian successor to the Roman Empire which controlled the same colonial possessions in North Africa, Eastern Europe and the Near East which were controlled by Rome during the age of the Caesars. The Greeks called it Rome as they called themselves Romans during the period of the Byzantine Empire.
There were three great advances of Islam. The first took place in the 7th and 8th centuries against the African and Asia parts of the Roman Byzantine Empire, together with the Muslim conquest of the Persian Empire. The second came from the Tatars and Mongols in Russia and Eastern Europe during the 13th century. The third, and most successful came with the Seljuk Turkish invasions of Anatolia and the Balkans during the 11th century, which resulted in the transformation of what the Muslims called “Rome” into a great Muslim Empire with its capital in Constantinople after the fall of the Byzantine Empire to Mehmet ll in 1453.
The invasion of the Turks, which began in CE and was completed with the fall of Constantinople, heralded the demise of the Second Roman Empire. The Zoroastrian Kurds of southwestern Anatolia, migrants from the Persian Empire, invited the Seljuk Turks into Anatolia. They did not want to be converted by force by the Greeks to Christianity. They ended up being force converted to Islam by the Turks. The Seljuk Turks introduced Islam into a country that had for fifteen centuries been part of Christendom. If the Byzantine Empire was the last surviving political entity of the Ancient World, then it is fair to say that triumph of Islam today in Turkey represents the destruction of Ancient civilization. The Arabs destroyed the great civilizations of Egypt, Assyria, Mesopotamia, Persia, Israel and Lebanon.
Without the Muslim hordes, there would today be a continuity between the Ancient world and the Near East. But there is none. Islam destroyed the early civilizations of the Near East. Muslims replaced the Ancient world with the Arabic world, with all its violence, intolerance, poverty, poor productivity and totalitarianism. Islam has reduced the descendants of the people of the Ancient world to second class people living at the behest of their conquerors; Assyrians, Coptics, Yazidis and Christians. The traditions of Ancient Greece and Rome survive only through the former barbarian countries of Europe, the last outposts of Ancient civilization. Like Nazism and Communism, Islam seeks to destroy the past and replace it with ideological fundamentalism. Islam represents a revolt against the civilizations which started in Ancient Mesopotamia and transformed the world into what we today would call modernity.
The Kurdish people, however, saw no difference between their old Byzantine rulers and their new Muslim rulers in Constantinople. For them, the Ottoman Empire, which was effectively the Third Roman Empire and controlled the same colonial possessions of Rome and Byzantium after the fall of the Mamluks, was appropriately called “Black Rome.”
The Mongols destroyed the five hundred year Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad and the Kurdish dynasty in Damascus. An unexpected victory for the Mamluk leader Baibars saved the Muslim world from Mongol conquest. As a result, Arab supremacy in the ummah was replaced by Turkish supremacy. The Mamluks took over Syria and brought to an end the last Crusader Kingdom in Palestine. With the demise of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Baghdad and Damascus Caliphates, the balance of power within the Muslim ummah changed in favor of the Turks. The completion of this process of Turkification in the Islamic world came with Mehmet II’s conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The Church in Rome helped the Seljuk Turks to win against Byzantium, just in order to weaken its competitor within Christendom, the Orthodox Church. Pope John Paul ll apologized to the Orthodox Churches for this betrayal on a trip to Istanbul several years ago.
The Kurdish description of the new Turkish regime in Constantinople as “Black Rome” was appropriate for what would go on to become the equivalent of the third Roman Empire after the Ottoman takeover of the colonial possessions of the Mamluk Turks in the Near East and North Africa. In the first paragraph I referred to the Turkish conquerors of Anatolia as barbarians. This would be an unfair description of the Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman Empire
Firstly, the Ottoman Empire was not the same as modern Turkey, with its Turkish nationalism and racial supremacy.
Secondly, the Sultans were not true despots like the Muslim rulers of the Near East. They were, however fanatical Muslims not tolerant of non-Muslim traditions, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians who were definitely not allowed to be the social equals of Muslims. However, the Ottomans did not actively persecute racial or religious minorities like the rulers of modern Turkey. The Greeks initially preferred to live under Ottoman rule rather than under the rule of the Franks, for instance, or suffer the domination of the Church of Rome. In a complete contrast with the 21st Century, refugees were more likely to move from Europe to the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans used the former Byzantine bureaucracy to govern their empire quite effectively during the 15th and 15th centuries, bringing a degree of peace and prosperity to the provinces of the former Arab and Mamluk caliphates. It was only during their period of decline after 1700 CE, when they became vulnerable to foreign invasions and found themselves facing nationalist revolts, that the Ottomans resorted to barbarity and oppression. By that time, during the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire became known as the “sick man of Europe.” Armenians, rather than Turks, were the engines of prosperity and administrative stability. Christians were given prominent roles in both the Ottoman court and the army. Some of the Sultans are even buried in Christian cemeteries. The Sultans tended to despise the Turks and almost always married non-Turkish women. The Ottomans were not Turkish nationalists. They were Muslims, who did not recognize the legitimacy of nation states in the European tradition. Rather, they saw the Caliphate as the united Muslim ummah and as such suppressed nationalism.
Thirdly, the Ottomans developed a tradition of rich literature going back as far as 13th century in Anatolia. Ottoman literature was primarily Islamic. They were as familiar with the literary classics of the Persian and Arabic traditions as were the Europeans familiar with the classics of Greek and Roman literature. They were not, therefore, Muslim barbarians. Rather, they were Muslim supremacists. Muslim “holy law” decided the social and political structure of the empire. And like all true Muslims, the Ottomans held that it was their religious duty to bring Islam by means of jihad to dar al-harb, what they called the “house of war.” It is fair to say that both the nations and empires of Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire were the dual inheritors of the legacy and lands of Hellenistic civilization. In the West, Europeans preserved the ancient world’s art and literature. In the East, the Ottomans preserved Hellenistic science and philosophy. Thus, after letting his army loot Constantinople for three days as a reward for their successful conquest of the great city, Mehmet ll, who felt himself to be at home in both Greece and the Greek language, brought an end to the looting on the fourth day. He then set out to make sure that Greek buildings, manuscripts and relics were protected and preserved.
From the Ottomans to Turkish Nazism
Enver Pasha, Ottoman War Minister responsible for the Armenian genocide
The Ottoman Empire was not a nationalist entity. It was a multi-ethnic empire, much like Rome and the Byzantine Empire, where national identity was not important. When the Turks conquered Anatolia and Constantinople, they came as Muslim supremacists, not Turkish supremacists. Islam does not recognize the nation state, only the Muslim ummah. However, in the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire faced the rise of nationalism in Greece and the Balkans. The great powers of Europe saw the Ottoman Empire as an important political entity, essential in providing stability in the Near East. When Napoleon tried to conquer Egypt and Palestine, the British came to the defense of the Ottomans. When the regime in Constantinople was challenged by the rise of Mohammed Ali in Egypt, who conquered Syria and Palestine, Britain and France intervened and put the Albanian Khedive back into Egypt. When Russia disputed with the Sultan over Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, France and Britain fought a war in support of the Ottomans in the Crimea against Russia. When Russia again threatened the empire by supporting Balkan nationalism, the Congress of Berlin brought about a compromise which left the Ottomans still in control of some parts of Europe.
It was not European nationalism which destroyed the Ottoman Empire, however, it was the rise of Turkish nationalism.
The Turkish takeover of Asia Minor came with the demise of the Caliphate. Yet it was the decision of those Turkish nationalists in 1913 to pull off a coup d’état against the democratic Committee of Union and Progress which ruled in Constantinople after the 1908 revolt against a particularly tyrannical Sultan, which brought about the demise the Ottoman Empire. The Young Turks challenged Muslim doctrine and turned the last Islamic Caliphate into a Nazi-style empire based upon the supremacy of the Turkish master race. This ultimately undermined its hold on non-Turkish Muslims and crippled the unity of the ummah. By adopting Turkish nationalism to replace Muslim equality, the three pashas (Mehmed, Djemal and Enver) combined racist supremacy, Sunni Muslim supremacy, mass genocide and warlike imperialism to create a role model for Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
The Ottoman Empire joined Kaiser Wilhelm’s disastrous race for supremacy in the geo-political map of Europe and Asia. This led to a declaration of jihad in November 1914 against the same Western powers, Great Britain and France, which had done so much to prop up the Ottoman Empire during the 19th century. Kaiser Wilhelm courted the Ottomans in order to bring on a Muslim revolt against the British Empire. This strategy failed. And Britain started to support a Hashemite Arab Revolt against the Ottomans. Britain’s war of conquest in the Near East against the last Caliphate ultimately destroyed seven hundred years of Turkish domination of the Islamic world. For it was primarily the military and diplomatic superiority of the British Empire which destroyed the unity of the Muslim ummah. By the end of the First World War, Britain had replaced the Ottomans as the greatest empire in the Muslim world.
Enver Pasha wanted to “relocate the dhimmis,” that is all Christians and Jews, in the Ottoman Empire, much as Hitler wanted to re-locate the Jews out of his Third Reich. This ended in a genocide of millions of Armenians and Greeks during and after the First World War. The hero of the Dardanelles, Mustapha Kemal, defeated a brilliantly conceived but poorly executed British campaign intended to knock the Ottoman Empire out of the war in 1915. Kemal emerged as the creator of modern Turkey after the end of the war. Distancing himself both from the legacy of the Three Pashas and the regime of the Sultan, Kemal, now called Ataturk, won control of postwar Asia Minor in a war against the postwar powers that were granted an interest in Asia Minor by the victorious allies, Greece and Italy.
The Kurdish regions of Eastern Anatolia were originally intended to become French Mandates in the Sykes-Picot Treaty, as were parts of Palestine and the Ottoman province of Mosul. The British ripped up Sykes-Picot at the Paris Peace Conference and France lost its interests in Mosul and Eastern Anatolia and Palestine. This made it easy for Ataturk and Emir Feisal to put an end to Kurdish independence, which had originally been promised by President Wilson after the war. British Prime Minister David Lloyd George wanted to support the Greek war against Ataturk’s national coup in Anatolia. The Conservative Party withdrew from the post-war Coalition Government and this led to the fall of Lloyd George, perhaps the greatest British prime minister since the Younger Pitt. The exchange of populations that followed marked the end of three thousand years of the Greek life in Anatolia. Millions of Christian Greeks were forced to leave Asia Minor, whilst hundreds of thousands of Muslims moved from Greece into Turkey. Today in modern Anatolia, Turks will not live in areas which were former Greek settlements because they are considered “unclean.” That is both Turkish racism and Muslim supremacism.
But here we must look honestly at the legacy of Ataturk, a man credited with introducing secularism into Turkish politics. This is clearly a myth. Ataturk combined both the racial supremacy of the descendants of the Turkish invaders, together with the Muslim supremacy of the Caliphate. Minorities were no longer “protected,” however, as they had been under the Sultans. Ataturk resorted to outright persecution of racial minorities like Kurds and Armenians. This was not done the Ottoman Empire. Sunni Islam, more than ever, became the dominant religious ideology of modern Turkey. Alavis and Zoroastrians, in fact all non-Sunnis, have been actively persecuted under the Kemalist regime since 1920. Adolf Hitler was an open admirer of Ataturk and Kemalist fascism. Though he got rid of the Arabic script and the Kemalist constitution was secular, he was really a Turkish supremacist. Turkey was secular on the surface but Islamic underneath. If Turkish governments did not rule by sharia law, Turkish society after 1924 was more Islamic than had been the during the Ottoman period. The creation of modern Turkey completed the conquest of Greek Anatolia which had begun in 1070. Yet, even though the Caliphate ended after the First World War, Turkey has been a Muslim supremacist country since it was formed in 1923. More than ever in the secular state of modern Turkey, the Islamic hold on Turkish civil life is now greater than ever. Although Jews and Christians no longer have to pay the jizya (that stopped in the 1850s), they are becoming more and more like dhimmis under Erdogan.
Is there a difference between Ataturk and Erdogan? I would argue Ataturk was a Turkish racial supremacist in his time, just as is Erdogan today. Both leaders put Sunni Muslims on a pedestal above the rest of Turkish society. Both actively persecuted the Kurds. Even though Jews have lived in Anatolia for over one thousand four hundred years longer than the Turks, the decline in their demographic in Turkey from 200,000 out of twelve million people in 1920 to 17,000 out of seventy-five million today is very alarming. This decline happened long before the rise of Erdogan.
The difference between Ataturk, who was a Turkish supremacist, and Erdogan, who is also a Turkish supremacist, is simply that Erdogan wants to revive the Ottoman imperial ambitions of the past. Thus, Erdogan has driven the country on a path towards Islamization that will soon turn it into a full-fledged Islamic State similar to Iran. Both Ataturk and Erdogan were/are guilty of trying to stamp out the language and culture of the Kurds, whose roots in Anatolia go back much further than that of the Turks.
But who are the Turks? How many of the Turkish people are racial Turks? The Turkification of Anatolia which was completed by Ataturk’s coup during the 1920s laid the seeds for the destruction of all minority cultures in modern Turkey. Ataturk was guilty of destroying what was a genuinely multicultural land during four centuries of Ottoman rule. Ataturk Turkified it. And Turkification has only helped to Islamize modern Turkey more than it was ever Islamized under the Caliphate. Turkification is and has always been Islamization. The more Muslim the majority of the people became so they also became more Turkish.
Black Rome did not disappear with the rise of Ataturk. Black Rome never went away. It is now going through a revival in power fed by one century of Kemalism, which has combined the toxic mix of Turkish supremacism and Muslim supremacism which has destroyed the cultural identity of minority groups much more so than did the Muslim Caliphate. The Kurdish people make up almost 20 per cent of Turkey’s population. Erdogan is now more dedicated to destroying Kurdish life than his predecessors. He is, however, as obsessed about the Kurds as was Hitler about the Jews. Not that Erdogan likes Jews. He hates them almost as much as did the Nazi dictator. But the Kurds are getting in the way of both Erdogan’s Turkish politics of racial supremacism and his Islamist Ottoman ambitions. Thus, the wars in Syria and the wars against ISIS in Iraq are for Erdogan no more than an excuse to send his troops across the borders to crush any hope of the Kurdish people forming their own independent state in Syria and Iraq. For Erdogan, Kurdish nationalism is as dangerous as Jewish nationalism. And he will do anything in his power to destroy both Kurdish independence in Arab countries and to undermine and destroy the State of Israel.
Black Rome is dangerous, even more dangerous than the Islamic Republic of Iran. Not only does Erdogan dream of reviving Turkish imperial ambitions in the Middle East. He also wants to undermine the last remains of Christendom in Europe. Turkey has used the spill over of refugees from the wars in Iraq and Syria to push millions of Muslim migrants into Europe. Erdogan sees this hijrah movement of Muslims into Europe as the final stage in the Turkish war against Europe. The Turks became dangerous migrants who took Asia Minor by the sword of Islam and Islamized the Byzantine Empire after the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. The Islamists want to conquer Catholic Rome by 2043. Muslims love anniversaries and they want to complete the mission of conquest in Europe which they started one thousand years ago.
Turks are just Muslims. They have no other identity. And the Turkish supremacist Erdogan wants no more than to complete the job started by Muslim conqueror Mehmet ll in 1453, the Islamization of the European continent. Ataturk, the so-called secularist, laid the groundwork for the Islamists with the formation of the modern Turkish supremacist Muslim Turkey. For Turkey is just Islam. And Islam is dedicated to the destruction of all pre-Islamic cultures.
The Ottoman Empire, once so powerful, was stopped at the Gates of Vienna and became less dangerous to Christendom. Black Rome evolved into the Kemalist Republic after Britain defeated the Ottoman Empire in 1918. Now, Erdogan’s Nazified Black Rome is more dangerous than the Ottoman Empire under the Sultans. The British Empire which struggled to defeat the last Islamic Caliphate one hundred years ago is no longer around to stop Turkey’s Islamic dreams of conquest today. No country in Europe is capable of standing up to the Turkish dictator who now is completing the dismantling of Kemalist democracy. Not Germany. Nor Britain. And the United States is too wary about the rising power of Russia in Eastern Europe and the Middle East to give Erdogan an ultimatum to either stop his program of Islamization or leave NATO.
David Lloyd George, who defeated the Ottoman Empire, and Winston Churchill, who made the modern Middle East
In 1918, Britain under Lloyd George was strong and confident enough to defeat the Ottoman Empire and bring about the furthest expansion of the British Empire in its history. Today, the United States, Britain’s successor as world policeman in the 21st Century, is capable under President Trump, but far too reluctant, to stand up to Erdogan. The Turkish president has turned his country into an Islamic “Third Reich” since the failed military coup two years ago. Turkey has invaded parts of Iraq and Syria to fight the Kurdish militias which have done so much to defeat ISIS. Russia is now collaborating with Turkey in Syria. As a member of NATO, this is unacceptable. Yet the United States and the European states, including Britain and Germany, continue to pander to Erdogan.
The Egyptian-born Jewish historian Bat Ye’or, when asked what would happen to Europe if Turkey were to join the European Union replied, “I think it would be disastrous for Europe…for several reasons I think it would bring the suicide of Europe, the destruction of Europe…when you bring a Muslim culture which is very strong, very preponderant and very affirmative into a society which is already dislocated, you destroy it totally. Therefore, I think the entry of Turkey into Europe is the end of Europe”.
Black Rome is winning the clash of civilizations without firing a shot against the Christian West. Only the United States is capable of standing up the the rising power of Erdogan’s Turkey, now the most dangerous country in the Muslim world. This is made more frightening now that Russia is collaborating Erdogan in developing nuclear facilities in Turkey. Greece, together with Syria and Iraq, is increasingly living in the shadow of an imperialist Turkey. That famous river of Ancient Mesopotamia, the Tigris, is being starved of water by Turkey’s Ilisu Dam project.
Europe, meanwhile, is showing signs of decay similar to those of the Byzantine Empire in the century leading up to the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
President Trump will eventually have to confront the Turkish problem facing Europe and the Middle East