Did Turks Vote to Become an Islamic State?

Eric Zuesse

The most pivotal election in modern Turkish history was held on Sunday November 1st, and it has transformed Turkey from being the least religiously dominated of all Islamic-majority nations, as Turkey had been ever since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had established Turkey’s independence as a secular nation in 1922, to being now not only Islamic but Sunni Islamic, which means that it will be firmly allied with the Sunni Arabic oil-and-gas aristocracies, especially the Saud clan that owns Saudi Arabia, and the Thani clan that owns Qater. Both clans run Islamic states; the Thanis finance the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood, and the Sauds finance the jihadist Al Qaeda; both the Thanis and the Sauds finance ISIS and are helping ISIS to self-fund by assisting ISIS to sell on the black market the oil being pumped in ISIS’s captured territories.

Approximately 90% of Turks are Sunni, but Ataturk had established Turkey as entirely secular; so, this huge Sunni Turkish majority was politically neutered from 1922 until the conservative Sunni President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan became elected Prime Minister in 2003. It could happen only because Ataturk hadn’t really understood how to separate church and state, in any enduring way. As Alex Tate of Georgetown University has noted, the system in education in Turkey is that “religion classes are mandatory in schools and teach the tenets of Sunni Islam. The Ministry of Religious Affairs, a branch of the central government that is at least officially autonomous, oversees religious education as well as all of the mosques and imams in the country.” In other words: Sunni propaganda is taught to Turkish children, even to non-Sunni children. This has continued to be the case even after Ataturk. Therefore, at the psychological level, Turkey has actually remained a Sunni Islamic state, even though at the political level, it hasn’t been Islamic at all (after 1922). The nearly a century of generations of Sunni-propagandized Turks, even after 1922, have produced the cultural foundation on which ErdoÄŸan has been skillfully building, to re-establish the Sunni Turkish Islamic state.

ErdoÄŸan had actually entered politics during a time when the institutionally secular Turkish military was becoming increasingly worried about growing public demands for Turkey to return to religion-based rule. (After all of that pro-Sunni propaganda in Turkey, it’s not hard to see why this sentiment was rising.)

ErdoÄŸan started in politics in 1976, with the Islamist National Salvation Party. The military carried out a coup in 1980 to reassert Ataturk’s secular vision for the country. This ended that Party. ErdoÄŸan and many of his colleagues then created the Islamist Welfare Party. In 1998, a Turkish court declared that Party to be inconsistent with Turkey’s non-sectarian Constitution, and therefore ruled the Party to be unconstitutional. Like many of his colleagues, ErdoÄŸan was banned from participating in national elections, but he still could run for local offices. However, sensing the rising Islamist tide in his country, ErdoÄŸan established in 2001 the new Justice and Development Party (AKP), and it won the parliamentary elections in a landslide in 2002. ErdoÄŸan would have become Prime Minister, but a court ruled that the existing ban didn’t allow that.

During this time, Ataturk’s party, the Republican Peoples Party, was becoming weaker and weaker. In 2002, even they supported the right of ErdoÄŸan to become Prime Minister. ErdoÄŸan’s AKP party won the parliamentary elections in a landslide, and he became Prime Minister. Then, in 2014, he was elected Turkey’s President. 

Based on news-reports and wikileaks releases of diplomatic cables, ErdoÄŸan sides with the Thanis of Qatar and not with the Sauds, in their specific preferences for whom the leaders of Syria should be. ErdoÄŸan wants it to be the Muslim Brotherhood, whom the Thanis likewise favor. Al-Monitor headline, “Erdogan’s Saudi Dilemma,” and reports that ErdoÄŸan is dissatisfied with the Saudi King’s favoring other jihadists than the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, but that ErdoÄŸan “incessantly blasts the West for supporting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi,” whose militant secularism rejects all jihadists, and therefore enrages ErdoÄŸan. This news-report shows friction between ErdoÄŸan and the Saudi King because the Sauds support instead Al Qaeda (called Al Nusra in Syria). By contrast, a wikileaked cable suggests a close personal bond between the Thani Emir and ErdoÄŸan. The cable described the day on which ErdoÄŸan was operated on to remove a pre-cancerous tumour; and it ended: “The prime minister’s office on Wednesday also said Erdogan is in good health and released photographs of him smiling and meeting with visiting Qatari ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani on the same day. Al-Thani and Erdogan met at Erdogan’s U:sku:dar home in Istanbul for one-and-a-half hours.”

As a result of ErdoÄŸan’s sweeping victory on 1 November 2015, he might now finally be able to establish the religious state that he has (if one is to judge by his background as cited here) been spending his entire political career to produce. Turkey’s Zaman newspaper modestly headlined October 31st on the eve of the election, “Turkish Election to Shape Political Landscape for a Decade,” and reported: “ErdoÄŸan has made no secret of his ambition to create a presidential system, a constitutional change almost impossible unless the Islamist-rooted AK Party he founded regains the majority it lost in June’s election and dominates parliament.” On November 1st, the headline there became “AK Party Regains Majority for Single-Party Rule,” and the newspaper reported that, “Despite pursuing divisive language and showing authoritarian tendencies through repressive policies over the country’s dissenting voices, the AK Party, which played the nationalism card by waging war against the country’s Kurds after it declared the end of the Kurdish settlement process, seems to have reached its goal to rule the country single-handedly. … Winning back the parliamentary majority, the AK Party, however, seems to have failed to obtain the votes [50%+] that will enable it to amend the Constitution in line with President Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan’s wishes to place a presidential system in Turkey by replacing … the current parliamentary system, paving the way for a one-man rule.” Erdogan was less than 1% shy of passing the 50% threshold.

That “divisive language” (plus all the Sunni propaganda coming from Turkey’s schools and clerics) won the day.

Wayne Madsen interprets ErdoÄŸan’s motives as being mainly racist Turkish or actually Turanian (the international imperial form of that). He provides no links or other citations to document his claim, and therefore it should be considered to be speculative at present. However, even Madsen says that, “When the array of nations being threatened by pan-Turanism is examined closely, it is clear that Erdogan has secretly made common cause with the enemies of Russia, that is, the Uralo-Altaic countries of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, as well as pro-Western elements in Hungary.” So: even he views ErdoÄŸan as being focused against Russia.

Since the Turanist-racist interpretation of ErdoÄŸan is (at least at present) speculative, nothing can be said about it here. However, what ErdoÄŸan has been doing in Syria seems, on the basis of the evidence, unquestionably to indicate him to be a committed enemy of Russia, and thus an ally of the Sauds, Thanis, and America’s aristocracy.

As regards America’s aristocracy, they seem to prefer the Muslim Brotherhood and thus to be on the Qatari side of the anti-Russia alliance. In fact, the U.S. was condemnatory of al-Sisi for the vigor with which he banned the Muslim Brotherhood.

As happens in any alliance, there are points on each side where the participants have disagreements. But what unites the aristocracies in the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Japan, most EU nations, and actually all nations that are allied with the United States (basically NATO and CENTCOM), is their war against Russia. ErdoÄŸan’s electoral victory on November 1st solidifies not only Turkey’s Sunni Islamicism, but Turkey’s position as a key ally of the U.S. and enemy of Russia.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.