Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Thursday that far from being seen as invaders, people in Syria, Iraq, other Middle Eastern countries, North Africa, and the Balkans remember Turkish people from history as being “truehearted”.
Speaking in Ankara at a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the passing of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Erdogan said that Turkey never had designs on the lands of other countries.
"Today, visit anywhere in Syria, Iraq, North Africa, the Middle East or the Balkans, and ask the people there their opinions of Turkey, and you will see no one mentions colony, invasion, oppression or massacres alongside Turkey," Erdogan said.
"Instead, you hear the symbolic call, 'Truehearted Turks here again!’" the president said, adding that Turkish people accept all people living in the same land as brothers and sisters without any discrimination based on religion or race.
Criticism of opposition CHP
Erdogan said both Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, the conqueror of Istanbul, and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the republic and starter of Turkey's War of Independence, drew their power from the nation.
"We are always striving to push forward the Turkish Republic, which honored veteran Mustafa Kemal [Ataturk] called his greatest work and entrusted it to future generations as a fully independent country.
He also criticized members of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which Ataturk founded, for misunderstanding Ataturk's messages.
"Unfortunately, I see that there are still those who do not understand the messages of our honored veteran Mustafa Kemal, who carried out his War of Independence starting in Samsun with his confidence in the nation.
"Those who seek to defame and disgrace the veteran's legacy, New Turkey, and make it a target for their own petty political interests do not deserve to use the veteran’s name”, Erdogan said.
Erdogan's criticism came after he launched a criminal complaint against the main opposition CHP over a statement it released condemning the imprisonment of lawmakers, his lawyer said.
On Monday, the CHP condemned the jailing of Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputies pending trial on terrorism charges as being “against the Constitution”. The government has accused the HDP of links to the PKK, which is listed as a terror group by Turkey, the U.S., and the EU.
‘Firm steps into the future’
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who also attended the ceremony, said: "In the 93rd year of our Republic, we can proudly say that Turkey continues to develop with political stability, democracy, and economic power".
The premier said he commemorated Ataturk with gratitude.
"The Turkish nation continues to take firm steps towards the future with determination and stability by protecting the spirit of the national struggle under the leadership of honored veteran Mustafa Kemal," he said.
Ataturk was born in 1881 in Thessaloniki, in what was then the Ottoman Empire. He made his mark in the military in 1915 when he led forces to repel the allied invasion in Canakkale, known in the West as the Dardanelles.
Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, Ataturk led the Turkish War of Independence, which defeated European powers. When he became president, Ataturk transformed the former empire into a modern and secular country.
Ataturk passed away on Nov. 10, 1938, at the age of 57.