Is ‘black propaganda’ distorting Ankara’s ‘Ottoman dream’?

Kalın’s statements show that the Turkey’s own propaganda has reached its limits, succeeding in some instances but failing in quite a number of others.
Saturday 11/07/2020
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) prays stands next to a Turkish soldier wearing a ottoman uniform, July 15, 2019.(AP)
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) prays stands next to a Turkish soldier wearing a ottoman uniform, July 15, 2019.(AP)

ANKARA – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has plunged his country into a series of economic, political, and military crises. As he becomes unable to justify his mistakes and to push his dubious designs—which include the reviving of the Ottoman Empire, playing the Sultan, and using the Muslim Brotherhood to that end—he points fingers at countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, accusing them of directing “black propaganda” against Turkey.

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalın has denied that Turkey had built its foreign policy on Muslim Brotherhood ideology and on “neo-Ottomanism”.

In statements reported by Anadolu Agency, Kalın considered claims of Turkey orienting itself towards Ottomanism and Brotherhood-based orientations to be baseless allegations aimed at defaming Turkish foreign policy, adding that there are no concrete facts proving such allegations.

With Erdogan banking on “neo-Ottomanism” as his path to personal glory, his spokesman’s statement reflects a sense of helplessness and isolation.What has happened instead is that his “Ottoman dream” has caused him so much trouble, especially since it stirs in Arab and Muslim minds the painful memories of Ottoman colonialism, a past marked by massacres, oppressive taxation, and racist Ottoman supremacy.

Erdogan’saccusations against Arab media of “black propaganda” seem to have fallen flat. experts says that it was in fact the Turkish president’s personal ambitions that have revived in the region’s minds the memory of the Ottomans’ dark past. The Arab media carried out their role of uncovering this past and linking it to Erdogan’s neo-colonial ambitions hence raising awareness of Turkey’s dangerous designs.

Kalın’s statements show that the Turkish propaganda has reached its limits, succeeding in some instances but failing in quite a number of others.

Arab media did not invent the story of “neo-Ottomanism”. The Turkish president does not hide it, and has even sought to promote it in numerous statements praising the Ottoman past in the Balkans, the Levant and North Africa. He also praised Ottoman sultans and pirates and has never hidden his desire to celebrate events in Ottoman history despite how provocative they may be to the region’s peoples, be they the Arabs, Armenians,or Christians.The most recent instance of this was the conversion of the Hagia Sophia Museum into a mosque by a decree that was more political than judicial.

Turkish Minister of Defence Hulusi Akar looking at a map  at the Army Command Control Centre in Ankara during a military operation in Iraq. (AFP)
Turkish Minister of Defence Hulusi Akar looking at a map  at the Army Command Control Centre in Ankara during a military operation in Iraq. (AFP)

Political observers and historians of political Islam have expressed surprise at the Turkish presidential spokesman’s disavowal of any connection to the Muslim Brotherhood. They wondered if Kalın had a better explanation for why is it that Turkey is harboring Brotherhood leaders from various Arab countries as well as providing them with media platforms from which they attack their countries, praise the Sultan Erdogan and his magnanimity, and express their desire to strengthen ties with him as an inspiring leader.

Ankara has benefited from Muslim Brotherhood networks to justify its direct interventions in Syria, Libya and indirect meddling in Tunisia and Yemen. Brotherhood media campaigns whitewashed Ankara’s agenda and aggrandised Turkish “support” while attacking and demonising its opponents as well as obstructing any investment coming from sources other than Turkey and Qatar.

Kalın has failed in completely recanting the Brotherhood when he defended them by saying that, “international liberal speeches have recently used the term Islamic movements, Islamic parties and the Muslim Brotherhood as a tool of intimidation.”

By blaming others for Turkish failures, Kalın’s statements reveal the ineffectiveness of Turkish propaganda due to increased awareness of the Turkish threat in the Arab region on one hand, and, on the other, to the accumulation of crises and mistakes made by the Turkish government itself and which have become difficult to defend.

Despite oppressive measures taken against journalists and restrictions on social media, propaganda run by Erdogan’s government has failed to reduce criticism of the government’s economic and social performance.

Media criticism of Turkish policy is mounting due to Turkish hostility against Europe, particularly in Turkey’s increasing ambitions in the Mediterranean and its explosive dispute with Cyprus and Greece, not to mention widening Arab hostility towards Turkey’s multifaceted expansionism.

Observers are expecting Turkey to face ever increasing hostility so long as it keeps up its expansionist agenda and its attempts at recreating a neo-colonial Ottoman past.