The 12th grade modern history book that is being used in public schools in Turkey is full of anti-American and anti-EU references, mirroring what Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been preaching at public rallies and meetings.
The 2018 edition, authored by Emrullah Alemdar and Savaş Keles and produced by the government printing office, appears to justify al-Qaeda’s terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, 2001 that killed nearly 3,000 people, brands the European Union as a Christian club led by the pope and criticizes the NATO alliance.
“The United States, which has more say with the self-confidence it gained in the aftermath of the Cold War but complies less with international agreements, has started to see itself as one above equals in international relations. From that point forward, deciding which countries would be punished and what systems would be changed relied on definitions and references made by the US. These practices by the US are one of the reasons behind the al-Qaeda terrorist organization’s attack on 9/11,” the book states on pages 262 and 263.
Post-9/11, the US adopted a policy of thwarting possible rivals and securing absolute dominance of the international system, the book says. “The US became the main source of problems in the world with what it did in the aftermath of September 11.”
The book described all members of the European Union as Christians and said denial of membership to Turkey, a predominantly Muslim nation, while accepting democratically and economically weak states as members of the union raised questions about the identity of the EU. The book features a photo of the leaders of the European Union and the pope on March 24, 2017 as they gathered in Rome to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which led to the formation of the union. The photo caption includes a statement by British-Polish historian Norman Davies, who said, “I am talking about the common tradition of Christianity, which has made Europe what it is.”
Not surprisingly, the book mirrored the perspective of President Erdoğan, who said in April 2017 that a picture of the pope posing with the leaders of EU was evidence that the EU was a Christian bloc. During the presidential referendum rallies, Erdoğan started bashing the pope and the EU in public speeches and repeatedly said the West was hostile to Islam and touted the picture as evidence that showed the EU was a single nation of infidels. Pointing out that what he had been saying all along was proven right with this gathering in Rome with the pope, Erdoğan declared that the EU was nothing but a Crusaders’ alliance.
With respect to Turkey’s decades-long alliance with NATO, the textbook is full of criticism as well. It claimed NATO membership killed Turkey’s multilateral foreign policy, destroyed the domestic defense industry and made Turkey dependent on US military aid. The book recalled incidents that took place at NATO’s Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) in Stavanger, Norway, in November 2017 during the Trident Javelin 2017 exercise as evidence of the bad intentions of NATO. In the drills both Erdoğan and the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, were portrayed as hostile figures, which prompted Turkey to quit the drill and recall 41 officers deployed to Norway.
Similar to what Erdoğan claimed, the book describes corruption investigations in December 2013 that incriminated Erdoğan, his family members and his business and political associates in a multibillion-dollar graft scheme as a “coup.” A similar characterization was made for the anti-government protests during the Gezi Park events of summer 2013. Erdoğan’s derogatory and hatred-filled talking points about the Gülen movement, a civic group that is highly critical of the Erdoğan regime due to its corruption and Erdoğan’s aiding and abetting of armed groups in Syria and Libya, was repeated in the textbook.
The book is a worrying example of how the inflammatory and hateful rhetoric adopted by Turkish President Erdoğan and his associates have taken a toll on education in Turkey with 12 graders being taught to parrot the same false narrative in school from the early years of their education.
The content of the textbook and its design was approved as study material for the 12 grade by the Ministry of Education in decision No. 12254648 on June 25, 2018, and 359,141 copies were printed in its first edition by the government in July 2018.