As the Arab world beyond the border struggles with the inspirations and traumas of its revolution — a new notion of citizenship colliding with the smaller claims of piety, sect and clan — something else is percolating along the old routes of that empire, which spanned three continents and lasted six centuries before Ataturk brought it to an end in 1923 with self-conscious revolutionary zeal.Translation: as the 'Arab Spring' rages, Turkey is gaining more power and Islamist support.
Even amid the din of the upheaval in the Arab world, that new sense of belonging represents a more pacific and perhaps more powerful undertow pulling in directions that call into question more parochial notions. The undertow intersects with the Arab revolution’s search for a new sense of self; it also builds on economic forces now reconnecting an older imperium, as well as on Turkey’s new dynamism and on efforts to bring reality to what has long been nostalgia.Translation: I have no idea.
“The normalization of history,” proclaims the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, whose government has tried to reintegrate the region by lifting visa requirements and promoting a Middle Eastern trade zone, as it deploys its businessmen along the old routes and exports Turkey’s pop culture to an eager audience.Translation: going back to the way things were is really what's best for the world. We want an Islamic Caliphate / Ottoman Empire like we had before. There were no borders. We were all part of the Islamic order. To get back to that, we're lifting travel restrictions.
“None of the borders of Turkey are natural,” he went on. “Almost all of them are artificial. Of course we have to respect them as nation-states, but at the same time we have to understand that there are natural continuities. That’s the way it’s been for centuries.”
THE DRAWING OF 20TH-CENTURY BORDERS rendered traumas large and small. Sectarian and ethnic cleansing after World War I rid Turkey and Greece of much of their diversity. The horrors of nationalism and the Holocaust made Salonica, a celebrated melting pot, unrecognizable in its modern incarnation. Even history’s footnotes were rewritten.Translation: That Islamic Caliphate we had never should have been dismantled. Doing so has caused such a mess. By the way, the 'holocaust' mentioned there is NOT meant to be interpreted as the Armenian holocaust perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks against the Armenians; if you ask the Turks, it didn't take place.
No one in Marjayoun would necessarily pine for the days of the Ottoman rulers… Yet more than a few in Marjayoun today might express a nostalgia for the time and place the Ottoman Empire represented, when Marjayoun’s traders ventured to Arish on the coast of the Sinai Peninsula and down the Nile to Sudan, by way of Palestine.Translation: If we actually SAY we want the return of the Ottoman Empire, there will be unnecessary attention paid to such words. We'll just subtly express 'nostalgia' for it.
Just as Arab nationalism still runs run deep, with the fate of Palestine its axis, so does Turkish nationalism, which includes a sense that the country deserves a role in the region, and beyond that at least echoes of its Ottoman age. The more sophisticated Turks dismiss charges of a new rationale for Turkish imperialism and call the goal instead a peaceful partnership that might look like the free-trade zone that presaged the European Union after World War II.Translation: A return to the Ottoman Empire is in their DNA and they're doing everything possible to restore it without anyone really noticing. They just can't say they yearn for it (see previous translation).
“It’s been almost 100 years that we’ve been separated by superficial borders, superficial cultural and religious borders, and now with the lifting of visas to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, we’re lifting national boundaries,” said Yusuf Yerkel, a young academic on Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s staff. “Turkey is challenging the traditional understanding of policy in the Middle East in place since the 20th century.”
Across the region, the Arab revolution has inspired a rethinking of identity, even as older notions of self hang like a specter over the revolts’ success. In its most pristine, the revolution feels transnational, as demands of justice, freedom and dignity are expressed in a technology-driven globalism. It echoes even in Turkey, where religious and national divides are increasingly blurred.Translation: they are pushing for the dissolution of national borders so that all Muslims can belong to one Caliphate again - the Ottoman Empire.
Read it all (if you can).