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Turkish Textbooks: Turning History on Its Head
By Uzay Bulut
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Turkey's Islamist government under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is preparing to further indoctrinate Turkish schoolchildren in propaganda regarding Israel, Greeks, Armenians, Cyprus and other issues of history and geography. Pictured: Students participate in an event, held in an Istanbul primary school, for National Sovereignty and Children's Day, on April 23, 2024. ( Ilker Eray/Middle East Images/AFP/Getty Images))
Turkey's Islamist government under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is preparing to further indoctrinate Turkish schoolchildren in propaganda regarding Israel, Greeks, Armenians, Cyprus and other issues of history and geography.

New content, named "Turkey's Century Education Model", was added to this year's curriculum and only recently made available for public opinion by the Ministry of National Education.

Additions were made, among other studies, to the "History of the Revolution of Turkish Republic and Kemalism", and geography, regarding Israel, Greeks, Armenians, Cyprus and others.

Turkish history textbooks will include more content on "Palestine", Israel and Zionism. The misleading chapter on the subject matter, which already existed, has now been extended even further.

The topic, previously addressed as "the Problem of Zionism", in now, in an expanded version, "Zionist movements, the Palestine issue and the transformation of colonialism". The new generation of Turkey's children is now being indoctrinated to become increasingly anti-Israel.

Islamists in Turkey do not teach schoolchildren that Jews have been indigenous to Israel for nearly 4,000 years -- since the Bronze Age -- and that the reestablishment of Israel as an independent state in 1948 was actually an anti-colonialist step.

Related: The Assyrian Genocide

"Zion" literally means Jerusalem. Zionism is a movement or idea that supports the Jewish right to self-determination in their ancestral homeland, the territory that is now the State of Israel.

The truth that Turkish children need to know is explained by the American Jewish Committee (AJC):

"As Israel continues to defend itself against the terrorist group Hamas, a war of information is unfolding around the world. One of the slogans most commonly used claims Israel is a 'settler colonial enterprise.' By charging Israel with colonizing Palestinians, Hamas and its supporters are manipulating the cause of racial justice to advance their terrorist goals - all while hoping no one notices Israel has been the homeland of the Jewish people since the Bronze Age.

"The truth is that the Jewish people are indigenous to the land of Israel and first achieved self-determination there 3,000 years ago.

"The Romans expelled the majority of Jews in 70 C.E., but the Jewish people have always been present in the land of Israel. A portion of the Jewish population remained in Israel throughout the years, and those who lived in the Diaspora yearned to return to the Jewish homeland and the holy Jewish city of Jerusalem, both of which are mentioned multiple times in daily Jewish prayers. This historical and religious link for Jewish people to the land of Israel is indisputable--even the word 'Jew' comes from Judea, the ancient name for Israel.

"As Jews around the world faced increasing persecution at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, they began moving to what is now Israel in greater numbers. Since Israel's establishment shortly after the Holocaust, Jews have moved to Israel from all over the world, seeking a place to call home in which they can live freely and safely as Jews. At the same time, Jewish and Israeli leaders have consistently acknowledged the presence of Palestinian Arabs and have supported efforts to partition the land into Jewish and Arab states, from 1937 to the present day. The best-known attempt to divide the land came in the form of the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which was accepted by the local Jewish population but rejected by their Arab neighbors, who waged war to eliminate the Jewish state. More recently, successive Israeli prime ministers have offered to concede more than 90% of the West Bank and all of Gaza to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Palestinian leaders, however, have consistently rejected efforts at bringing about a two-state solution, as they did in 1947, and they continue to do so to this day.

"'Settler colonialism' refers to an attempt by an imperial power to replace the native population of a land with a new society of settlers. It cannot describe a reality in which a national group, acting on its behalf and not at the behest of an external power, returned to its historic homeland to achieve self-determination while simultaneously supporting the creation of a nation-state for another national group alongside the creation of their own state."

Meanwhile, Turkish government authorities have targeted their own indigenous peoples of Anatolia, namely the Pontic Greeks and Armenians. In the twentieth century, Ottoman Turkey largely exterminated these peoples through a genocide.

Serious scholars, however, agree that Ottoman Turkey committed a genocide against Christians, namely Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians. In 2007, the International Association of Genocide Scholars issued a resolution, which said, in part:

"It is the conviction of the International Association of Genocide Scholars that the Ottoman campaign against Christian minorities of the Empire between 1914 and 1923 constituted a genocide against Armenians, Assyrians, and Pontian and Anatolian Greeks."

According to Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, President of Genocide Watch, denial is the last stage of genocide:

"Denial is a continuation of a genocide because it is a continuing attempt to destroy the victim group psychologically and culturally, to deny its members even the memory of the murders of their relatives."

The government of Turkey has aggressively denied this genocide ever since its founding in 1923. Many Turkish citizens have been tried in courts for publicly recognizing the slaughter as a genocide. Two human rights advocates with Turkey's Human Rights Association (IHD) -- Co-Chairman and Lawyer Eren Keskin and member of the IHD Commission Against Racism and Discrimination Gulistan Yarkın -- were recently tried and acquitted of charges of "insulting the Turkish state and nation" for saying what was done to Armenians in 1915 was genocide, during a 2021 commemoration event for the 1915 Armenian Genocide.

Prior to the hearing, Keskin said:

"We did not insult anyone. We think that what happened before Turkey was founded was a genocide. I believe that the state [of Turkey] continues this idea [implements similar genocidal policies]. We think this should be discussed. We think this will liberate this geography of ours. It will contribute to the democratization of this country. No law prevents us from expressing this. Turkey was convicted on this issue.

"Normally, in [a country ruled by] the state of law, when this accusation comes before a prosecutor, he should say, 'There is an ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] decision, Turkey was convicted on this issue, I cannot open this case'. But this is not a [country ruled by the] state of law, anyway. I think 1915 was genocide. The Turkish state should also face this issue and compensate for the damages [done to the victims]. I do not accept the accusation [directed against me]."

The Turkish government is also in denial about the history of the land of Turkey. Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians are indigenous peoples of the land, just as Jews are indigenous to Israel. Muslim Turks from Central Asia arrived in the Armenian highlands and Anatoli, which was the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire at the time, only during the 11th century. Through military invasions, Muslim Turks seized the towns and cities where indigenous Christians had lived for centuries. Ottoman Turks finally invaded Constantinople (today's Istanbul) in the fifteenth century, bringing the destruction of the Byzantine Empire. After that, abuses against Christian religious and cultural heritage became widespread.

Hagia Sophia (Greek for "Holy Wisdom"), for instance, was built by Greeks in the 6th century as a church. Nearly 1,000 years later, Ottoman Turks converted the Hagia Sophia cathedral into a mosque, killing or enslaving the Christians inside. In 1930, the Turkish government converted Hagia Sophia to a museum, and in 2020, back into a mosque. This was the latest in a series of abuses against churches in Turkey and is part of a neo-Ottoman resurgence.

The new Turkish textbooks also claim Greek and Cypriot waters in the Aegean Sea as belonging to Turkey. Through a doctrine that the government of Turkey calls "the Blue Homeland", they aim to seize Greek islands and maritime space in the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. This doctrine will be taught in geography classes at middle schools.

The Greek newspaper Kathimerini reports:

"The 'Blue Homeland' doctrine which envisages Turkish influence over large swaths of the Mediterranean and other seas at the expense of other countries in the region, including Greece, will be taught during the next school year, local media revealed.

"According to the Turkish Education Ministry's recommendations that were made public by the Turkiye and Takvim newspapers, the maps and the Blue Homeland doctrine, as well another regarding influence in the air, will be taught in secondary school geography classes.

"The recommendations state that 'the value of patriotism should be instilled as well as Turkey's justified struggle against demands that ignore its legal and geographical rights in the Sea of Islands [i.e. the Aegean Sea] and the Eastern Mediterranean'."

Turkey has threatened to invade Greek islands since at least 2018.

The draft curriculum, which includes suggestions for teachers, also addresses the history of Cyprus, which Turkey illegally invaded in 1974. It suggests that students prepare a report on the "injustices suffered by the Turks in Cyprus" to present at the United Nations.

Apparently, in Turkey, black is white and white is black. Turkey has illegally occupied 36% of the Republic of Cyprus since it invaded the island country through a brutal military campaign. Greek Cypriots were killed, raped, tortured, unlawfully arrested, forcibly "disappeared," and put in labor camps. Around 160,000 Greek Cypriots fled their homes to escape the advancing Turkish army. To this day, the occupying forces impede the return of the forcibly displaced to their homes and property. Their property and possessions were forcibly seized and distributed to illegal settlers from Turkey. The Christian and Jewish cultural and religious heritage of the occupied area has largely been destroyed. Yet, the new curriculum in Turkey seriously suggests that teachers instruct students to write papers about the alleged "injustices against Turks in Cyprus"?

Sadly, these textbooks will sow more hatred in Turkish children against Jews, Greeks, Christians, Armenians, Greek Cypriots and the State of Israel -- all based on misinformation, willful distortion, and historic revisionism.

Indoctrinating Turkish schoolchildren with these unjust biases -- children who will oversee Turkish education and politics in the future -- will only make Turkey even more aggressive in its foreign policy and more vicious to its minorities and dissenters at home.

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