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Last week, the world was stunned to watch Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s move to convert the Hagia Sophia from a museum into a mosque, reversing the 1934 decision by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding father of the secular republic of Turkey.
What many missed is that Turkey’s Islamist strongman also vowed that “the resurrection of Hagia Sophia heralds the liberation of the al-Aqsa Mosque.”
This is not the first time that Erdogan has called the Islamic world to unite against Israel and “liberate” Jerusalem.
Do Erdogan’s latest moves and rhetoric mark a new phase in his Islamist policies? Will the Turkish strongman pose a new threat to Israel? What are Erdogan’s ambitions in the Middle East and beyond?
Here to speak about this is our good friend and FDD Scholar, Aykan Erdemir.
Dr. Aykan Erdemir is the Senior Director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is a former member of the Turkish Parliament who served in the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, EU Harmonization Committee, and the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee on the IT Sector and the Internet. As an outspoken defender of pluralism, minority rights, and religious freedoms in Turkey and the Middle East, Dr. Erdemir has been at the forefront of the struggle against violent extremism, religious persecution, hate crimes, and hate speech. He is a founding and steering committee member of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief, and a drafter of and signatory to the Oslo Charter for Freedom of Religion or Belief as well as a signatory legislator to the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism. He also serves on Anti-Defamation League’s Task Force on Middle East Minorities. Dr. Erdemir was awarded the Stefanus Prize for Religious Freedom in 2016 and the First Freedom Award of the Hellenic American Leadership Council in 2019 in recognition of his advocacy for minority rights and religious freedoms. He has received his BA in International Relations from Bilkent University, Ankara, and MA in Middle Eastern Studies and PhD in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University. Dr. Erdemir is co-author of the book, Antagonistic Tolerance: Competitive Sharing of Religious Sites and Spaces (Routledge, 2016) and FDD report, “Brothers in Arms: The Consolidation of the Turkey-Qatar Axis” (2019).