Turkish conspiracy theories
More on the Turk's anxieties and conspiracy theories on Lausanne Treaty from a 2014 FP article
Turkey is sitting on vast amounts of the mineral boron, whose extraction is prevented by foreign forces and the novel coronavirus was created by the Chinese government among the leading conspiracy theories believed by Turks, according to a news survey by pollster İstanbul Ekonomi Araştırma (IE).
A total of 47.2 percent of those surveyed said foreign powers prevented Turkey from benefiting from its boron mines while 39.5 percent said COVID-19 was a laboratory concoction of Beijing, T24 new site said, citing the IE survey.
Turkey has the world’s largest reserves of boron and is the mineral’s biggest exporter. The mineral found in food and the environment is used in supplements as medicine.
The novel coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December, has expanded to touch nearly every corner of the globe, claiming the lives of over 300,000.
That Turkey’s Lausanne Treaty had secret clauses, which would come into effect in 2023, was another conspiracy theory, which 38.5 percent said they believed, according to the survey conducted with 1,537 people in 12 provinces across the country.
Some Turkish pundits are looking ahead to more serious foreign-policy challenges — like what will happen in 2023 when the Treaty of Lausanne expires and Turkey’s modern borders become obsolete. In keeping with secret articles signed by Turkish and British diplomats at a Swiss lakefront resort almost a century ago, British troops will reoccupy forts along the Bosphorus, and the Greek Orthodox patriarch will resurrect a Byzantine ministate within Istanbul’s city walls.
Of course, none of this will actually happen. The Treaty of Lausanne has no secret expiration clause. But it’s instructive to consider what these conspiracy theories, trafficked on semi-obscure websites and second-rate news shows, reveal about the deeper realities of Turkish foreign policy, especially under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s pro-Islam Justice and Development Party (AKP).
After defeating the Ottoman Empire in World War I, Britain, France, Italy, and Greece divided Anatolia, colonizing the territory that is now Turkey. However, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk reorganized the remnants of the Ottoman army and thwarted this attempted division through shrewd diplomacy and several years of war. Subsequently, the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne recognized Ataturk’s victory and established the borders of modern Turkey. Lausanne then became part of the country’s foundational myth. For a time it even had its own holiday, Lausanne Day, when children dressed in costumes representing contested regions of Anatolia for elementary school plays.
With the Treaty of Lausanne so embedded in the Turkish state’s ideology, it is no surprise that conspiracies about it are ideologically loaded and vary according to the partisan affiliation of the individual conspiracy-monger. Erdogan’s critics tend to be more focused on the risks Turkey faces when Lausanne expires. Conspiracy-minded secularists have always worried that Erdogan is working with the European Union to establish an independent Kurdistan or perhaps dig a new Bosphorus to secure American ships’ access to the Black Sea, or really doing anything else possible to undermine the sovereignty Ataturk secured for Turkey. Some of Erdogan’s supporters, by contrast, are more optimistic about Lausanne’s expiration, in part based on a strain of recent historical revisionism suggesting that Ataturk actually could have gotten a much better deal during the negotiations had he not been in league with the Europeans — not preserved the whole Ottoman Empire, necessarily, but at least held on to a bit more of Greek Thrace and maybe the oil fields of Mosul. Where Ataturk once criticized the Ottoman sultan for failing to defend Turkish territory in the face of Western aggression, Islamists have now borrowed this charge for use against Ataturk.
In the realm of Turkish domestic politics, talk about “the end of Lausanne” reflects the fears of some and the hopes of others that with former prime minister, now president, Erdogan’s consolidation of power over the last decade, Turkey has embarked on a second republic — what Erdogan calls “New Turkey.” Supporters believe this new incarnation of the Turkish state will be free of the authoritarianism that defined Ataturk’s republic; critics worry it will be bereft of Ataturk’s secularism.
Still, the persistence of the end-of-Lausanne myth shows the extent to which New Turkey will be indebted to the ideology of the old one. Turkish Islamists have certainly inherited the conspiratorial nationalism found among many secularists, complete with the suspicion of Euro-American invasions and Christian-Zionist plots. (Is it any coincidence Lausanne is in Switzerland, a center of world Zionism?) While the secularist fringe speculated that Erdogan was a secret Jew using moderate Islam to weaken Turkey on Israel’s orders, many in the AKP’s camp now imagine that all Erdogan’s problems are caused by various international conspiracies seeking to block Turkey’s meteoric rise.
In the realm of foreign policy, though, these conspiracies belie a deeper truth: Despite the current violence to Turkey’s south, the borders enshrined in the Treaty of Lausanne are more secure than they have ever been. And the AKP was the first government to fully realize this. While Erdogan has often stoked nationalist paranoia for political gain, as when he claimed foreign powers were behind popular anti-government protests, the AKP’s foreign policy was the first to reflect a serious awareness of Turkey’s newfound political and economic power, not to mention the security that comes with it. Beneath all the bizarre rhetoric and paranoia, the AKP realized that Turkey has finally moved beyond an era in its foreign policy defined by the need to defend what was won at Lausanne.
After the Treaty of Lausanne was signed, Turkey’s main geopolitical aim was the preservation of its territorial integrity. In the 1920s and 1930s, the threat came from European powers like fascist Italy. In response, Turkish statesmen embraced a perilous neutrality, controversially staying out of World War II from fear that joining either side would invite a Russian or German invasion. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union emerged as a uniquely imminent threat, leading Turkey to abandon its neutrality and join NATO.
When the Cold War ended, a new threat to Turkey’s borders emerged: a guerrilla war launched by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). This threat helped unite Turkey with Israel over a shared belief that comfortable Western liberals would never understand why, in a dangerous neighborhood, killing terrorists — be they Kurdish or Palestinian — took precedence over human rights. In fact, Turkey entered the 21st century much like Israel: a regional power with a self-perception based on the fear and insecurity that circumscribed its founding. Amid fevered criticism of the war in Gaza this summer, it was striking to see a few Turkish writers offer advice to Israel about the benefits Turkey has found in overcoming this self-perception.