Actually, demonstrations in Turkey are currently not approved due to the corona epidemic. But when it comes to rallies in the interests of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, things are different: Syrian refugee groups have now gathered in Istanbul and other cities to protest against France.
Shortly before, Erdogan had accused the West and especially the Paris government of a “major attack” on Islam, heated up his Nazi accusations against Europeans, and called for a boycott of French goods. Erdogan’s anti-Western campaign aims to divert attention from the dire economic situation in Turkey and to blame alleged enemies abroad for the country’s troubles.
What is Erdogan accusing Europe of?
Turkey has been pursuing an aggressive foreign policy for some time, which has led to a dispute with Europe over the border in the Eastern Mediterranean. The country is at odds with the US over the purchase of a modern Russian air defense system.
In turn, with Russia, tensions are mounting over Turkey’s involvement on Azerbaijan’s side in the war against Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh. Erdogan presents the differences to his own audience as attempts by alleged enemies abroad to prevent Turkey from becoming a regional power.
Ankara now uses the same pattern in the allegations against Europe. The main target is French President Emmanuel Macron, who is in favor of European sanctions against Ankara over the Turkish actions in the Mediterranean and has declared war on political Islamism in France.
Erdogan describes Macron as insane, but also scolded Germany. For example, last week he took a police search of a Turkish mosque in Berlin as an opportunity to accuse German authorities of racism and Islamophobia.
Erdogan has been painting the image of a West that focuses on Islam for days with increasingly sharper tones. Hostility to Muslims is supported by heads of state in some European countries, he claimed Monday, referring to Macron. “They are links in a Nazi chain.”
Islamophobia in the West has become a “major assault on our Quran, our prophet and all our religious values”. This is not the first time he has opted for these conditions. Three years ago, he accused Chancellor Angela Merkel of Nazi methods.
Is Erdogan Revealing the Secular Legacy of State Founder Ataturk? Photo: Erdem Sahin / Shutterstock
Why is the Turkish president attacking so violently now?
The government needs an issue that will captivate the public as the downward trend in the domestic economy is currently accelerating dramatically. The exchange rate of the Turkish lira has fallen to record lows against the dollar and the euro. The currency has lost more than 25 percent of its value against the dollar since the beginning of the year.
Erdogan and his ministers respond with a mixture of persistence and arrogance against the concerns of the citizens. When the president recently heard from ordinary people during a visit to the province that they could no longer take bread home, he replied that it seemed “very exaggerated”.
By fighting with the West, Erdogan can divert attention from these issues and set the political agenda. He need not fear contradictions – the government controls the judiciary and much of the media.
Where is Erdogan taking Turkey?
Erdogan’s tirades against the West are not just a diversion. His government claims a say on regional issues from the Caucasus to North Africa and sees itself as the protector and advocate of Muslims worldwide. Behind this lies a changed self-image of the country: Turkey no longer sees itself as part of the West, but as an independent regional power.
He does not attack all superpowers as sharply as Europe. The Turkish government did not comment on the previous day’s Russian airstrike in the Syrian province of Idlib, which killed nearly 80 members of a militia loyal to Ankara. The otherwise argumentative Erdogan does not say a word about China’s dealings with the Muslim Uyghur minority.
Apparently, the 66-year-old fears that Moscow and Beijing may react more strongly to criticism than the EU. Erdogan’s government sees Europe as a “paper tiger,” said Marc Pierini, former EU ambassador in Ankara.
What does he want to achieve?
Erdogan wants to make Turkey a regional player in the short term, whose interests must be taken into account by the great powers. With regard to Europe, Erdogan used the refugees as political lever in the spring when he opened the border with Greece.
Now he wants to mobilize the Turkish minorities in Europe for his purposes. If he succeeds, it could become uncomfortable for German politicians or Macron in the new elections next year. As president of six million Turks in Europe, he warned local politicians not to incite Muslims against them, Erdogan said Monday.
After the murder of the teacher Samuel Paty, Macron paid his last respects to the dead Photo: Francois Mori / AFP
In time, the president wants to get his country out of the shadow of state founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. “Erdogan is about to write a new story for Turkey,” said journalist Mehmet Tezkan of the T24 news platform.
Erdogan’s vision of a “new Turkey” is that of a Muslim-conservative, militarily strong and nationally unified presidential republic – very different from Ataturk’s Turkey, where Western orientation was a cause of state and usually held back foreign policy.
Why is Germany relatively calm?
The German government has so far avoided European sanctions against Turkey, arguing that a dialogue with Ankara could bring more than just economic pressure or political exclusion.
However, Erdogan’s provocations against Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean and insults against Macron put Berlin’s position in trouble.
The German government will have to think about something new until December 10 – on that day the EU summit will decide on sanctions against Ankara. Turkish opponents of Erdogan in exile accuse Germany of a policy of reconciliation that does not do justice to the reality of the Ankara regime.
“Erdogan lives off conflict,” said political scientist Cengiz Aktar, who fled into exile. Aktar and others are convinced that Erdogan’s government needs one foreign policy crisis after another to stay in power. The new campaign against Europe may not have been the last production from Ankara.
How strong is Erdogan’s influence in Germany and does his politics contribute to the radicalization of Muslims?
Erdogan’s unrest is also dangerous for Germany, security circles warn. With the agitation against the West “he contributes to the emotionalization of young Turks and young Muslims in general,” says a senior expert. The inhibition threshold for attacks “is rejected by the statements of Erdogan”. The expert therefore recalled what young radicalized Muslims are capable of.
In July 2006, two Lebanese students dropped bombs on two regional trains at Cologne Central Station. The passengers narrowly escaped a catastrophe because the explosives hidden in their suitcases did not explode due to a technical defect.
The motive for the crime was the anger at the reprint of Mohammed cartoons in the German press. Such fanatics could also feel confirmed by Erdogan’s unrest, it is said. “Erdogan runs over the gas station with the lighter.”
Even if the Turkish head of state is most heard by people with Turkish roots, security circles see the danger of emotional approval, especially among young, heated Muslims in general. “Erdogan presents himself as the strongman who, unlike Germany’s supposedly softened Islamic communities, speaks plain language.”
In Istanbul, people took to the streets to protest against French President Macron Photo: Emrah Gurel / AP / dpa
Erdogan’s arm reaches far into the Turkish community. In a response from the federal government to the request of left-wing politician Sevim Dagdelen, it says, “The Turkish state continues to strive to influence communities of Turkish descent in Germany and influence the political will and decision-making process. in German society as a whole. “
This is done, for example, through the “Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion” (Ditib), the nation’s largest Islamic association. It is the German branch of the Turkish Bureau of Religious Affairs (Diyanet).
Ditib imams are sent and paid by Ankara. The association operates nearly 900 of the approximately 2,800 mosques in Germany. Especially after the coup attempt in Turkey in the summer of 2016, Erdogan is said to have used Ditib as a mouthpiece for his politics – to put them in position for his fight against Fetullah Gülen and his movement.
For example, in 2017 it was announced that Ditib imams passed on information about Gülen supporters to Ankara.