In a series of nationalist rants in recent days, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the West of plotting against his country and sought to present the deadly attacks against two mosques in New Zealand last week as part of a wider international conspiracy against Muslims and his country.
He also claimed the West and Greece are trying to deprive Turkey of its energy rights in the Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus and to exclude it from the Aegean.
Referring to the attacks in New Zealand by 28-year-old Australian Brenton Tarrant, Erdogan said, “They are testing us from 16,500 kilometers away, from New Zealand, with the messages they are giving from there.”
”This isn’t an individual act, this is organized,” he said at one of many rallies at the weekend ahead of local elections on March 31.
“All Muslims, our country, our nation and myself are targeted,” he told supporters. Erdogan’s decision to project footage from the attack – posted by Tarrant on Facebook – on large screens during his speeches, drew a rebuke from New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters.
“Anything of that nature that misrepresents this country, given that this was a non-New Zealand citizen, imperils the future and safety of New Zealand’s people and our people abroad. And it’s totally unfair,” he said.
In a manifesto, Tarrant said, “We are coming to Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) and we will destroy every mosque and minaret in the city.”
Muslims, he said, should be driven out of the part of Turkey that lies west of the Bosporus, while he added that the former Orthodox church of Hagia Sophia, which is now a museum, “will be free of minarets and Constantinople will be Christian-owned once more.” He also described Erdogan as the leader of the largest Islamist organization in Europe.
Speaking at an event Monday marking the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915 when Ottoman Turks defeated invading forces from Britain, Australia and New Zealand, Erdogan warned Western countries that “your grandparents came here and left in caskets. Do not doubt that you will have the same fate as your grandparents.”
He also warned the West that “you will not make Istanbul Constantinople” – the original name of the city before it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Erdogan said Tarrant had visited Turkey twice in 2016.