Statue of Mehmet the Conqueror to be erected in Istanbul
The Mayor of Istanbul Kadir Topbaş has announced “We will erect a statue showing Sultan Mehmed II [Mehmet] on a horse in the sea in the Golden Horn. Tourists passing from here will be able to see his statue and take a photo of it.”1 Known as the Conqueror, Mehmet was an important Ottoman Sultan who helped to establish the power of the Ottoman Empire and is most known for his conquest of Constantinople.2
Many may think the erection of this statute to be an insignificant beautification of Istanbul, but its significance should not be ignored. The Turks, as are other peoples in the Middle East, are a very historical nation. By this I mean that their history, or maybe more accurately their perception of their history, forms an important part of their current mentality.
For instance President Erdoğan frequently refers to Turkey’s ignominy from the Treaty of Lausanne, which was signed nearly a century ago.3 Still to this day Turks are irked by that treaty and wish to geopolitically rectify its effects. But the Turkish memory goes back further than a mere century.
August 24, 2016, the date which operation Euphrates Shield (Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria) commenced just happened to be the 500th year anniversary of the Battle of Dabiq in which the Ottoman army of Yavuz Sultan Selim defeated the Mamluks.4 This victory which occurred in Dabiq northern Syria, a town which was captured by Turkish backed rebels in Euphrates Shield, solidified Ottoman power in the Middle East.
Then two days later on August 26 the Turks opened a newly constructed bridge spanning the Bosporus Strait. The name of that bridge? Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge! Ibrahim Karagül explains the significance of the bridge and it’s opening date:
“On Aug. 26, 2016, the capital of empires, Istanbul, the gate to both the East and West, was stage to a message-filled historic opening on these chaotic days, not only for Turkey, but for the entire world. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan opened Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge with Turkey’s friends and supporters in attendance.
On the 500th anniversary of Yavuz Sultan Selim’s great expedition, which united the geography, on the anniversary of the geography being turned into a joint homeland, while that region, from Egypt to Syria is being destroyed and the same destruction scenarios are aiming for the heart of Turkey, we are a nation that joins the East and the West, that says joint homeland, united geography once again.”
As can be seen the mind of the Turkish person is steeped in their history, and that history is not something to be studied as an intriguing relic. More importantly it provides the impetus for Turkey’s current domestic and geopolitical action. In other words where Turkey wants to go is greatly influenced by where it has previously been.
As such the erection of a Mehmet the Conqueror statute in Istanbul is an important and revealing symbol for the Turkish people. It is reasonable to argue Mehmet presided over the greatest Turkish achievement, the conquest of Constantinople and the resulting destruction of the Byzantine Empire. He took the fledgling Ottoman nation and made it into an empire.
The symbolism of the Mehmet statute is that Turkey is once again on the cusp of transforming itself from a nation to an empire. Whether or not this transformation occurs, at the very least this is what Erdoğan and a significant portion of the Turkish people desire to happen and are working towards this goal.
Many in the West have trouble perceiving this symbolism for the simple reason that we ourselves, particularly in the US and Canada, are ahistorical. We have little conception of our own history, and what little we know of it has minimal bearing in our day to day lives. Most concerning of all is that because we are largely ahistorical, we assume that everyone else in the world is as well. We project our own mentality onto others.
However, most of the world is not like us in this regard, they are much more historically minded than we are. Until we realize that our current Western mentality (in this case with regards to history) is not universal, we will never understand what is occurring in non-Western nations. Even though the signs are there, and are obvious to anyone open-minded enough to accept Turkish culture as it is and not as we perceive it to be, we will not see what is clearly transpiring in Turkey: Erdoğan’s push towards a new Ottoman Empire.
As Jesus said “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”5
 Matthew 16:2-3 NIV