Being critical of the conquest of Constantinople will get you in trouble in Turkey
It is well known that speaking ill of President Erdoğan in Turkey and even in other countries, can get a person in serious legal trouble. But a Turkish person also has to watch his words when it comes to the history of his country.
One seminal event in Turkish history is the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans in 1453. For the majority of Turks this momentous event is looked upon with joy and reverence. May 29 was the 563rd anniversary of the event and the day was marked by great celebrations throughout Turkey, with approximately 1 million people attending a celebratory ceremony held in Istanbul.
However, not every Turk thought the day was worthy of celebration. A Turkish academic by the name of Erbay Bardakcioglu tweeted “Today is the anniversary of the invasion of Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, a magnificent civilization, by a barbaric and fanatic tribe.” For such a critical, ‘anti-Turkish’ tweet, Bardakcioglu was suspended from his job, is being investigated by Adnan Menderes University and has been “condemned and ostracized” by his community.
The head of his university, Cavit Bircan responded, “After our terrorism-loving academics, we now have Byzantium-loving academics. Let them know that the sons of the Hira Mountain [where Muslims believe Muhammad received his first revelations from Allah] will definitely and once again defeat the sons of the Olympic Mountain.” So I guess being fond of the Byzantine Empire is on par with loving terrorism.
On the one hand it is understandable that most Turks would be unhappy with a fellow countryman who is disdainful of the historical event that effectively led to the establishment of their nation. Regardless of whether Bardakcioglu’s criticism is valid or not, he probably should have realized that his tweet was going to ruffle some feathers and potentially cause him some problems.
However, on the other hand this incidence illustrates the fact that freedom of speech is a principle that is not respected in Turkey. Bardakcioglu tweeted something that was ‘offensive’ to the majority of his fellow Turks, but is that reason enough for him to be suspended from his job as a professor of veterinary surgery? Should Bardakcioglu be ostracized for voicing his historical opinion? I will leave the answers to you the reader.
I wonder if this incident, among many others, will help people better understand why many in Britain and other European nations are against the accession of Turkey to the EU?