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of imprisonment and persecution of journalism and censorship
of the press, so it is hard to see anything published not having succumbed to government's propaganda. Furthermore, is
it some unofficial polls that they base that argument on, and
if yes, what should the constituency of people deciding for the
monuments fate be. For example, should the opinion of citizens
residing outside of Istanbul be considered as well? Should the
opinion of the Greek minority count to that end, and if yes, to
what capacity and extent? Consequently, this argument is turbid
and invalid too.
The third argument of exclusive jurisdiction as a sovereign right applies only to a certain degree since, according
to UNESCO, the Turkish government should have entered
into a dialogue about the intended changes and finally get the
consent of the organization before planning and announcing
The fourth argument lies at the core of the truth. Both in his
pursuit of the internal organization of the country and in the
external projection of hard power, Erdogan wants to reduce the
influence and penetration of the ideology of the secular state,
as was well attested in the conflict over the oath of the Turkish
student. On the internal front, he opposes the translation of
the Koran from Arabic into Turkish that prevailed until 1950,
the de-Islamization of education, the liberalization of women,
the operation of mixed schools and universities, possibly the
relocation of the capital to Ankara, the operation of casinos
and gambling, and generally stands for the undoing of many
structural changes brought about by the character of the secular
state. Erdogan has also repeatedly spoken of the superiority of
Islam over Western values. At the same time, his government
partnership with Bahceli's Gray Wolves since 2018, is provoking
a dangerous and highly explosive political mix of nationalistic
Islamization, taking the most aggressive parts of both ideologies. Among other elements of policy, he has embraced their
positions for alleged illegal occupation by Greece of at least 18
Aegean islands, which is only part of the border changes he
has announced in the context of the "Blue Homeland" and the
annulment of the Treaty of Lausanne, which he also considers
an abhorrent legacy of Kemalism.
As for the external affairs of Turkish policy, it should have
been established by now that Erdogan is trying to appear as a
global Islamic figure and a point of reference for Sunni Islam,
from Myanmar and China to Crimea and Gibraltar. In this context, his ambitious plans are narrowed by the national vision of
the Kemalists, whom he has fanatically ousted from military and
judicial power as well as in the press.

14 | THE AHEPAN ยท Fall 2020	

Did Erdogan expect the West to respond decisively?
Erdogan's move was a calculated risk. Notwithstanding Turkey's
course in the international arena, the consequences it has suffered are negligible while trade and armaments from inside and
outside the country continue without much trouble. Erdogan
guessed that apart from a few halfhearted opposing statements,
he was not going to suffer any real loses. After all, rapprochement
around the Christian identity is declining in the countries of the
European continent and in any case, it does not seem cohesive
enough to be turned into a twisting arm of substantial political
pressure. The UN fails more frequently than it succeeds in playing its intended role in matters of hard power - it remains to be
seen whether it can take any action against Turkey on an issue
seemingly of soft power, but expectations are extremely low.

Why should the Western world care?
There is a multitude of reasons why the global and especially
the western, or the western-aspired internationally community
should react. We summarize them in two big categories. As far
as reasons having to do with soft-power issues, culture and civil
rights are concerned, we note the following:
1.	 The conversion of Hagia Sophia to a mosque is a deeply symbolic move in a cultural sense but simultaneously bears a profound, alarming political message. It is an emblematic move
functioning on a figurative level as disrespect towards and
domination over Christendom and as a beacon of unification
of Sunni Muslims behind Erdogan as a global leader. It is no
coincidence that Erdogan attempted grotesquely to correlate
the chosen time of the announcement of the decree, 20:53,
to the year 1453 of the Ottoman seizure of Constantinople.
Erdogan is picturing Turkey as the super-power of a united
Islamic world with its own political and military alliance of
Muslim countries antagonizing with other actors like NATO
for world dominance. The move ascertains in the most
emphatic way the cultural war waged in Tukey upon western
civilization's core values and can serve as an ideological basis
for military action as well. President Erdogan chose July 24
as first day of prayer in Hagia Sophia, which is the day of the
signing of the Lausanne Treaty he desires to dismantle. Yet
another indication that in his vision, the political dominance
of Islamists on the political landscape in the interior of Turkey
is intertwined with maximalist, outrageous claims of territorial expansion.
2.	 Western values are considered inferior and are often mocked and
ridiculed by Turkish officials. On a symbolic level again, Minister
of Interior Mr. Soilu stated previously, "I see Europe and I pity it.

The AHEPAN Fall 2020

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