Why Lausanne? Why Now?
The latest hot topic is the Treaty of Lausanne (July 24, 1923), the final treaty concluding World War I, among other items, recognizing the boundaries of the modern state of Turkey and its sovereignty.
AK Party spokesman Mahir Unal followed President Erdogan in opening the terms, more accurately, the gains and losses of Turkey through the signing of the treaty. President Erdogan continues to lash at Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the CHP Chairman, at every opportunity over the past weeks.
It started with Kilicdaroglu’s accusation to the government, lead by President Erdogan, that they have let go of some islands and rocks in the Aegean Sea. The Greek Minister of Defence’s attempt at laying a wreath at the islet of Kardak (Imia), which was blocked by the Turkish Navy, was the last straw. According to the Greek media, the minister and Admiral Nicholas Tsounis were onboard the naval vessel Nikiforos for the wreath-laying ceremony to remember three military personnel who died in a helicopter crash during the 1996 crisis with Turkey, which Turkey considered an intrusion into its borders. The islet in 1996 was the scene of a tense standoff between Ankara and Athens, which almost lead to a full-scale war between the two NATO allies over sovereignty issues in the Aegean.
Turkey and Greece have been locked in a dispute for decades about sovereignty in the Aegean Sea. Although the Dodecanese islands were handed over to the Italians in Lausanne, ownership of islets and rocks closer to the Turkish shores and the continent shelf issues were not settled. For years, Turkish and Greek F-16 fighter jets, both had bought them from the USA, have been engaged in dogfights and naval patrol vessels blocking each other.
In order to understand today’s Lausanne debate; the reason and timing of it, one need to acquaint one’s self with some historic persona and facts. Here is some encyclopaedic and historic information to get the facts right:
The treaty was signed in the picturesque town of Lausanne in Switzerland. On one side were representatives of Turkey (successor to the Ottoman Empire) and Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, Romania, and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (Yugoslavia) on the other; after a seven-month conference.
Turkey made no claim to its former Arab provinces and recognized British possession of Cyprus and Italian possession of the Dodecanese group of islands. The Allies dropped their demands of autonomy for Turkish Kurdistan and Turkish cession of territory to Armenia, abandoned claims to spheres of influence in Turkey, and imposed no controls over Turkey’s finances or armed forces. The Turkish straits between the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea were declared open to all shipping.
Turkey, or rather, The Government Of The Grand National Assembly Of Turkey was represented by Ismet Pasha (Inonu), Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy for Adrianople (Edirne); Dr. Riza Nur Bey, Minister for Health and for Public Assistance, Deputy for Sinope (Sinop); Hasan Bey, formerly Minister, Deputy for Trebizond (Trabzon).
And this is exactly where the feud begins; between Ismet Pasha and Riza Nur. Secular republican and religious Turks have never been able to settle this feud.
İsmet Inonu, (24 September 1884 – 25 December 1973) was a Turkish general and statesman, who served as the second President of Turkey from 11 November 1938 to 22 May 1950. He also served as the first Chief of the General Staff from 1922 to 1924, and as the first Prime Minister after the declaration of the Republic, serving three terms: from 1923 to 1924, 1925 to 1937, and 1961 to 1965. As President, he was granted the official title of “Milli Şef” (National Chief). However, many Turkish people never supported some of his actions.
He tried to manage the economy with heavy-handed government intervention, especially after the 1929 economic crisis, by implementing an economic plan inspired by the Five Year Plan of the Soviet Union. In doing so, he took much private property under government control. Due to his efforts, to this day, more than 70% of land in Turkey is still owned by the state. Desiring a more liberal economic system, Atatürk dissolved the government of İnönü and appointed Celâl Bayar, the founder of the first Turkish commercial bank Türkiye İş Bankası, as Prime Minister.
Dr. Rıza Nur (30 August, 1879 – 8 September, 1942) was a Turkish surgeon, politician and writer. He was prominent in the years immediately after the World War I but was later marginalized and became a critic of the new regime.
After graduating from the Military Medical School in 1901 Dr. Rıza Nur went on to work as a surgeon at Gülhane Military Hospital before returning to the Military Medical School as an academic in 1907.
He had also engaged in what he called in his memoir a period of “philandering,” during which he contracted gonorrhea twice, experiences that, along with his medical training, informed his 1907 book Protection from Venereal Diseases.
He entered politics following the adoption of a constitutional monarchy but was imprisoned and later exiled for coming into conflict with the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) administration, remaining a dissenting voice from abroad. Feeling that Turkey was too reliant on Germany but accepting that the country needed a close relationship with a bigger power to prosper he toyed with the idea of a United States mandate in Turkey in the immediate aftermath of World War I.
Returning to Turkey in 1919 he was a founder member of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and was appointed Minister of National Education in 1920 and Minister of Health and Public Assistance in 1921, as well as serving as the envoy at the 1921 Treaty of Moscow and the Conference of Lausanne. For Kemal Atatürk, Rıza was an important appointment as his presence in government, along with that of Ahmet Ferit, lent weight to Atatürk’s claims to being a uniting force, as both men had been opponents of the CUP, which provided most government ministers.
At Lausanne, Rıza was sent as assistant to the head of the Turkish delegation İsmet İnönü. It was he who proposed the motions recognizing the Grand National Assembly as the legitimate government of Turkey, the end of the monarchy but the continuing control of the Caliphate by the Turkish government. However whilst at Lausanne he also came to blows with the former Prime Minister of Greece Eleftherios Venizelos over the issue of the Pontic Greeks. Indeed, what the Allies saw as Rıza’s intransigence over both this issue and that of the Armenians led to a Yugoslavian delegate claiming that Rıza was “beginning to show the cloven hoof”.
Rıza Nur had negative views of Albanians as being inclined to banditry and other vices, which formed his view, to press for their exclusion from the population exchange (1923) to Turkey to which Greece agreed. Nur also accused İzmir governor Abdülhalik Renda of encouraging his Albanian compatriots (refugees and immigrants) to resettle from other Anatolian regions to İzmir, claims that Renda denied. Nur also had negative views of Circassians in Turkey and along with the Albanians viewed them as a threat to the Turkish state due to developing rival nationalisms.
Following the formation of the Turkish Republic, Rıza Nur fell out of favour and left Turkey in 1926 after the attempt on the life of Atatürk at in Izmir. Rıza condemned the executions of Mehmet Cavit Bey and the other alleged assassination conspirators arguing that, whilst he personally disliked the men who had been his own political opponents, he felt that they had not been involved in the plot and so were unjustly killed. Embittered at the fall-out with his former ally, Rıza also wrote widely about Atatürk’s alleged alcoholism.
Returning from exile in Paris and Alexandria after Atatürk’s death, in 1942 he published the journal Tanrıdağı, which supported Turanism and pan-Turkism.
Rıza Nur was also a noted writer on a number of topics, with his most well known work being a history of Turkey in 14 volumes. He died at the age of 63 and was buried at the Merkezefendi Cemetery, Istanbul.
Hayat ve Hatıratım (My Life and Memoirs, written in 1928, published in1968), which was banned in Turkey from distribution for 24 years, is the pinnacle of his allegations against both Inonu and Ataturk, and the new regime.
In this book he goes on to raving and ranting about Ataturk being gay in one section then on to claiming that Ataturk was a womanizer and had allegedly raped a girl. In one page he was claiming lustful kissing with boys in another Ataturk was organized orgies with MP’s finding girls for him. According to Riza Nur, Ataturk was an alcoholic, drunk to oblivion every single night, that he had amassed a fortune and on and on. Riza Nur actually went to the extent to claim that Ataturk’s mother was a prostitute and worked in a brothel in Thessaloniki where Ataturk was born and that his father’s name was Abdosh of Serbian and Bulgarian origin. Ataturk’s father wa not Ali Riza bey but this Abdosh who never accepted him since Zubeyde, Ataturk’s mother, had been his mistress.
Riza Nur didn’t stop there! He wrote that his wife had been cheating on him and that Inonu and Ataturk had something to do with it. In these memoires, he also confessed to being “drawn” to a young officer, that he couldn’t get him of his mind and that this love would lead to “livata” a word used for gay sex in Ottoman Turkish.
Good Dr. Riza Nur, deliberately didn’t publish his book during his life but delivered it to the British Museum in 1935, on condition that it would not be published until 1960, hoping that everybody he knew and made accusations against would be dead by then.
He died in 1942. In 1949, a copy of this book was donated to the French National Library. By whom has never been found out or disclosed.
In 1968, a young man called Kadir Mısıroğlu published My Life and Memoires by Dr. Riza Nur in four volumes and 2000 pages. Years later, he would say that the microfilm of the original copy by Riza Nur, which was given to the British Museum, reached him and he had published this book under a false publishing house name called Altindag Yayinevi (Godl Mountain Publishing House).
The very same Kadir Mısıroğlu said ”on Tenth of November, five past nine you must go to the toilet”, “The harm done by Mustafa Kemal hasn’t even been done by the Greeks”.
Who is Kadir Mısıroğlu?
Kadir Mısıroğlu (born 24 January 1933) is a Turkish author, historical revisionist, poet, lawyer, and a former journalist. He is a staunch anti-secularist and known for his opposing opinions against the founder and first President of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Atatürk. Mısıroğlu was born in Akçaabat in the Trabzon Province and enrolled at the Istanbul University Faculty of Law in 1954. He became interested in history during his university education and began research as an amateur historian. He founded the publishing house Sebil in 1964 and the eponymous magazine in 1976. He has published more than 50 books in his career. His 1974 book decrying the historical legacy of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty brought him widespread recognition among religious and nationalist conservatives.
In 1977, Mısıroğlu became a Trabzon candidate of the Islamist National Salvation Party (MSP) for the Grand National Assembly of Turkey but failed to be elected. He became a member of the Central Committee of the party in 1978 but after the 1980 Turkish coup d’état, he sought asylum in Germany and settled in Frankfurt.
Mısıroğlu returned to Turkey in 1991. He founded the foundation Osmanlılar İlim ve İrfan Vakfı, an Ottoman monarchist NGO in 1994 and he has been leading it since then.
Mısıroğlu is known for controversial, and sometimes fantastic, public statements. In July 2016 he claimed in a television interview that Shakespeare was in reality not English, but a secret Muslim.
This self proclaimed historian and devout opponent and hater of Ataturk and the modern Turkish Republic, whom part of the Turkish public calls “the mad man wearing fez”, the late Ottoman headwear for men, is a personal advisor to President Erdogan on matters among others of history.
Nationalist and religious conservatives of Turkey have always challenged the era of the establishment of modern Turkey as well as Ataturk himself. Accusations ranging from Ataturk’s alcoholism to his marriages were deliberately serviced, as the conservative people abhor such behaviour. His alphabet revolution moving away from the Arabic to Latin, changing the calendar from Lunar to Gregorian, abolishing the Caliphate, banning the fez for men and modernizing women’s attire were and still are all considered as treason to Islam, Caliphate and the Ottoman Empire.
To this day, this feud has not ended and it looks like it will not end soon. But, why now? Why is President Erdogan bringing the Lausanne Treaty to debate now?
In line with the Neo-Ottoman doctrine, Erdogan is pursuing his version of expansionism in Africa, the Balkans and Middle East; not so in Central Asia since that region is Putin Russia’s domain that the President wouldn’t want to challenge. But he doesn’t hesitate to challenge the terms of Lausanne as he and a large percentage of the Turkish society, mostly nationalists and religious conservative people, consider the treaty to be a trickery of the Allied Forces.
When talking about Lausanne, especially saying that we are in the process of breaking our shell, meaning the borders whilst urging others to respect the integrity and sovereignty of Syria is no less than duplicity. Imperial ambitions and Neo-Ottoman dreams are only causing suspicions with Turkey’s neighbours and creating deep-rooted enmities. Only those who do not care for Turkey’s sovereignty, unity and integrity would dare to challenge Lausanne. Revisionist ideals had lead Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany to ruin, almost to the brink of extinction.
Having said that, the fact of the matter is that the Turkish government lead by President Erdogan doesn’t want to be left out of the redrawing of maps in its vicinity that is former Ottoman Empire. Turkey still has a reach through nationalist and Islamist sentiments in the region, which didn’t play-out in the Middle East as much as desired but may do so in parts of Africa and Balkans.
When the doctrine is based on delusions of senile and twisted minds how an the actions be true and decent?
As always, there is never a dull moment and no boring day in Turkey and these parts of the World.