Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sample of Neo-Ottomanism and soft power, by Ioannis Michaletos

The Turkish state follows a so-called “Soft power approach” regarding the influence it wants to exercise in Islamists in Greece. In 2011 the Turkish foreign ministry announced it is going to report all historical monuments of Ottoman period that exist in Greece and then “take them under its protection”.

Turkey is interested mostly in re-establishing mosques that have been deserted over the past 2 centuries in the cities of Didymotycho (Close to the borders with Bulgaria), Ioannina (Close to the borders with Albania), the island of Rhodos (close to Turkey) and Thessaloniki (The second largest city in Greece-close to the Balkan neighbors). This policy is closely related to the pan-Balkan planning of Turkey to give a new birth to the Ottoman Empire based first of all on “cultural grounds”. At the same time Turkey tries to be in between the “Moderate” Egyptian influence in the Balkans and the “Salafi” one as directed by Saudi Arabia, whilst it has formed since 2011 a kind of alliance with Qatar, which is a dynamic player in pushing forward its own agenda.
A focal point of Turkey currently in the Balkans is FYROM. According to reliable information , there is a long-term infiltration by Turkish agencies through the use of NGO’s and charities, based on the principle of “Neo-Ottomanism”.
- NGO “Union of Turks” in Skopje directed by Souleiman Baki.
- NGO “Group For the protection of the cultural and social status of ethnic minorities” in the town of Most-Koprou, directed by Mourtejan Furkan.
- NGO “Humanitarian philanthropic union of Turks” in the city of Veles, directed by Beshim Ahmed.
- NGO “Sefqi” in the city of Gostivar directed by Ertzan Tsoulez.
The Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA), is very active in FYROM and recently it started to provide donations in the region of Bitola (close to Greek borders) and to members of the Turkish minority in order to create biological cleaning installations.
It also provides capital to the Yaya Kemal college and creates a new Turkish school in the area Boutel in the capital city of Skopje.
Furthermore TIKA, provides money for the so-called “International Balkan University”. According to well-informed sources in Skopje there are various investigations by local and international organizations, regarding the establishment of any links between this university and the IHH Turkish islamist organization ( Worldwide known from the Gaza flotilla case in 2010).
Continuing, the Turkish state has strong influence in the Islamic theological school of the city of Stip and last year 80 students from there were sent with scholarships in Turkey.
In Tetovo, TIKA bought land and spent 300,000 Euros in order to build an Islamic cultural center. Also regular amounts of money, are provided each month to the Turkish cultural centers in the cities of Ohrid, Bitola, Stip, Valadovo and Plasnica.