Erdoğan’s Turkey: An Awkward Present and a Dark Past
The increasingly erratic behaviour of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government is a matter of growing concern for international observers from both the church and secular society.
Turkey holds a key to refugee inflows into Europe, and President Erdoğan and his supporters are taking full advantage of that situation as he tongue-lashes European countries who are wary of Turkey’s increasingly totalitarian governing regime.
European Union leaders are calling on member states to relax border controls in coming months. This is in anticipation of increasing flows of refugees as the warmer weather of summer approaches. It also coincides with repeated threats from Turkish authorities to renege on a border agreement with the EU that significantly reduced the flow of migrants from Turkey to Europe during 2016 and early 2017.1
This development does not bode well for refugee support services across the European continent, many operated by Christian groups, who have struggled to cope since the refugee floods commenced in 2014.
Turning his ire from north to south, President Erdoğan is also embracing a bitter anti-Israel rhetoric, accusing the Jewish state of being racist and discriminatory and urging Muslims to throng to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in a show of solidarity with Palestinians.2
This accusation is tragically ironic given Turkey’s history of racist persecution of its Christian (principally Armenian and Greek) and Kurdish minorities. Over one million Armenians are estimated to have perished in the infamous campaign of persecution carried out by Ottoman Turkish authorities during the First World War.
Moreover, the continuous flight of Greek Christian communities from their historic homelands in Constantinople and Asia Minor since Turkish tribes began their great migration one millennium ago is documented, with the nation of Turkey taking its name from the newcomers who dispossessed its original inhabitants.
Meanwhile, those formerly Christian Armenians who survived the Ottoman Turkish genocide of the early 20th century live on through their estimated 2.5 million descendants who converted to Islam to guarantee their safety. Successive Turkish regimes have long denied the genocidal campaigns of the Ottomans.
Muslim Armenians, who are today settled across diverse Turkish cities and villages, are growing in their regard for their pre-Ottoman roots. The revival of their formerly Christian identity is breaking down long-held taboos which emerged with the official policy of denial. This revival was greatly stimulated by the collapse of the Soviet Union, the ongoing Kurdish nationalist rebellion against Turkish control, and Turkey's campaign to join the European Union.3
It is to be hoped that any revival of Armenian national identity will be accompanied by religious revival, leading to a flourishing of the once great Armenian Christian presence in Turkey, now barely a pale shadow of its former self. Such would help to derail the increasingly Islamist and totalitarian plans of President Erdoğan.
“Europe: More Migrants Coming”, May 5, 2017, Gatestone Institute Website, https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/10307/europe-more-migrants, (accessed May 13, 2017).
“Erdogan Lashes ‘Racist’ Israel, Calls for Muslims to Flood Temple Mount”, May 8, 2017, Times of Israel Website, http://www.timesofisrael.com/erdogan-lashes-racist-israel-calls-for-muslims-to-flood-temple-mount (accessed May 13, 2017).
“2.5 Million Muslim Armenians Live in Turkey”, May 12, 2017, AINA Website, http://www.aina.org/news/20170512134854.htm (accessed May 13, 2017).